The first line of defense against house fires is to have a working smoke detector on each floor of a house. Each year, thousands of families are warned of a fire in their home by a smoke detector's alarm. But, smoke detectors are only effective if they are working properly.
"Most smoke detectors run on batteries so it is important to check that it is working properly on a regular basis," Victory said. Smoke detectors should be checked once a month and batteries changed at least once a year. Many homeowners find it convenient to change the batteries each year when daylight-saving time begins and ends. Installation is also important. Smoke alarms should be mounted at least 4-inches from the ceiling if placed on a wall, and at least 4-inches from the wall if mounted on a ceiling. Smoke detectors should not be installed near a door, window or air vent, according to Victory.
Another device every home should have is a fire extinguisher.
"Each year fire extinguishers save lives and property by putting out small fires and containing larger ones to allow a safe escape," Victory said. "A fire extinguisher should only be used by someone who knows how to use them." Victory recommends the PASS system: P - pull the pin, A - aim low, S - squeeze the trigger, and S - sweep from side to side.
"Fire extinguishers should be mounted in plain view but out of reach of children. It should be near an escape route and away from stoves and heating appliances," Victory said. Extinguishers should be checked at least once a year to make sure it is charged.
While smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are the most important defenses, preventing fire should always be the first concern.
Recognizing potential hazards in the house can prevent fires from starting. Victory said there are three elements that make a fire - fuel, heat and oxygen. Fuel sources in a home are items such as paper, rags, curtains, furniture, clothing, carpets and flammable liquids.
Heat sources in the home include cigarettes, matches, stoves, portable heaters, water heaters, electrical appliances and electrical outlets.
When fuel and heat sources get together the result can be disastrous. Ashtrays dumped into a wastebasket, portable heaters too close to curtains and using frayed electric cords could all start a deadly home fire.
Victory recommends some basic, common sense rules for preventing these types of fire:
* Have furnaces and chimneys cleaned and inspected by a professional once a year.
* Never leave cooking unattended. If grease catches fire in a pan, slide a lid over the pan.
* Keep matches and lighters away from children.
* Put out cigarettes. Careless smoking is the number one cause of fire deaths in North America.
* Always put candles in a stable holder and never leave the house with candles burning.
* Unplug appliances such as irons, toasters and curling irons when not in use.
Although preventing fires should be a major concern, Victory said that every family should develop an escape plan.
"Developing a plan and practicing the plan is very important," Victory said. "Family members should know all possible escape routes and have at least two escape routes from a bedroom."
Families should have a designated meeting place outside the home and practice fire drills at least once every six months.
"Knowing a few basic survival skills can save a life in the event of a house fire," Victory said.
* Always sleep with bedroom doors closed.
* Know the sound of the smoke detector.
* Get out of the house. Don't waste time trying to save objects.
* Feel every door before opening it. If it's hot, find another way out.
* If there is smoke in the escape route, crawl on hands and knees, and stay low, beneath the smoke and poisonous gasses.
* If clothing catches fire, remember to stop, drop and roll.
* After exiting a burning building, never go back inside.
Victory told the Young Farmers and Ranchers that by learning these safety procedures, they could prevent a disaster.
"Stay calm and stay alive," she said. "Let the firefighters do their job."
Anyone interested in joining the Sharp County Young Farmers and Ranchers can contact the Sharp County Farm Bureau office or Chris James at 870-528-4937.