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Gov. Whitmer Urges Families to Develop and Practice a Home Fire Escape Plan During Fire Prevention Month

Media Contact: LARA Communications 517-335-LARA (5272)

October 10, 2019 – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer today proclaimed October as Fire Prevention Month to help emphasize this year’s National Fire Protection Association theme: “Not every hero wears a cape. Plan and practice your escape.”

“I urge Michigan families to develop a home fire escape plan – and practice it, especially in the dark, with the entire family,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “It is vitally important to know two ways out of every room in case of fire. Home fire escape planning saves lives.”

Recent statistics on fire fatalities in Michigan indicate that a majority of fire deaths happen overnight, specifically with fires starting in the living room or bedroom.

“We have as little as two or three minutes to escape the house from the time the smoke alarm sounds,” said Orlene Hawks, Director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, in which the Bureau of Fire Services is housed. “A fire escape plan can save your life and the lives of your loved ones.”

“Having working smoke alarms in every bedroom and on every level of your home – as well as closed bedroom doors when you are sleeping – are the best defenses against fast-moving fires and can cut a family’s risk of dying in a home fire in half,” said State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer.

Michiganders should be sure to check the smoke alarms for their elderly family members and identify any fire hazards in their home and help correct them. It is also important to watch out for careless smoking, as smoking is the leading known cause of residential fire fatalities in Michigan since 2017.

Here are tips to make your home more fire-safe:

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of the home and inside every sleeping area.  
  • Check the alarm by pushing the test button every month.
  • Never smoke in bed; keep lighters and cigarettes away from children.
  • Never leave cooking unattended.
  • Keep the stove and burners clean and free of grease while you cook to avoid the potential for a small kitchen fire that can get out of hand quickly.  
  • Never leave candles unattended; place them in sturdy holders on uncluttered surfaces, keeping them at least a foot away from anything that can burn, including curtains, bedding, furniture, and carpeting.
  • Have fireplaces, chimneys, wood stoves, and coal stoves inspected annually by a professional – and cleaned if necessary.
  • Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended.
  • Use caution when using space heaters; never leave them unattended, keep them at least three feet away from anything that can burn, and place them on a hard-nonflammable surface, like a ceramic tile floor.
  • Replace frayed extension cords; do not overload extension cords.
  • Never overload electrical outlets; plug only one heat-producing appliance into an outlet at a time.
  • Major appliances should not be plugged in using extension cords and plug strips. Plug appliances directly into the wall receptacle. Same goes with space heaters.
  • Keep clothes and other items three feet away from gas water heaters.
  • Clean the dryer lint screen after each load – lint is extremely flammable. 
  • Have fire extinguishers in the home and know how to use them.
  • Make sure all doors and windows leading outside open easily and are not blocked by clutter.
  • Sleep with your bedroom door closed to limit fire spread. Closing the door before dozing can save lives by reducing toxic smoke levels and slowing down the spread of fire and smoke into sleeping areas.
  • Make sure you close the bedroom door behind you if you escape a fire by going out a window. This slows down the spread of fire and smoke.

“Fire can happen to you,” said Sehlmeyer. “With these practical and essential preventive measures, people can help avoid fires in their homes and also be better prepared if a fire does occur.”

MI Prevention – a statewide fire safety campaign through the State Fire Marshal, the Bureau of Fire Services and Michigan’s fire safety organizations is working to reduce the number of fire deaths, injuries and property loss in Michigan. In order to protect the health and safety of high-risk populations in targeted areas, over the course of the last eight months MI Prevention has installed 21,384 smoke alarms and 6,455 carbon monoxide detectors in homes free of charge and is educating consumers on safety practices. Consumers can find more resources and safety information at the MI Prevention website:

Last year, 139 Michigan residents were killed in 108 residential fires, and fire departments throughout the state responded to approximately 13,745 home fires, according to state fire departments’ data gathered through the National Fire Incident Reporting System.

“The downward trend in residential fire fatalities is encouraging,” said Sehlmeyer. “But I still urge Michiganders to be diligent in practicing fire safety all year long.”

The Michigan Bureau of Fire Services joins the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and other state and national organizations in recognizing Fire Prevention week and is extending educational outreach efforts to fire departments and the public during the entire month of October.

The NFPA has been the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week for more than 90 years, making it the longest-running public health and safety observance on record. For more information about preventing fires and staying safe, go to the NFPA official Fire Prevention Week website at

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