National Burn Awareness Week kicks off Monday, Feb. 7, and The New Jersey Division of Fire Safety wants to remind residents that with proper preparedness and some simple measures taken in the home, everyone can be safe.

In 2019, there were 355,000 residential and building fires in the United States which resulted in 2,800 deaths, said Richard Mikutsky, director of the State Division of Fire Safety and state fire marshal.

He also said that 2021 was an extremely high year for house fires in New Jersey. "We had 107 fire-related deaths last year and about 60% of those were one and two-family residences," he added.

What can help protect someone in the event of a house fire?

Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms 

Mikutsky said first and foremost, install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms on every level of the home and outside sleeping areas. Make sure they work. Check them every month.

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Make sure they are the new 10 year sealed battery ones. If they are not, replace them especially if they are more than 7 to 10 years old, he said.

Create a fire escape plan 

Mikutsky said this should be created together as a family. Pick a meeting place outside like a tree, so that if or when a fire breaks out, everyone can escape and meet at the agreed spot outside.

Follow the "Close Before You Doze" campaign 

Keeping the bedroom door closed at night is proved through statistics and over a decade of research that it saves lives and property as well, Mikutsky said. If a door is left open, it allows the fire and smoke to travel very quickly throughout an apartment or house. So before going to sleep, keep the door closed. It will provide an extra layer of protection against the products of combustion.

What are the top four most common causes of a house fire?

Mikutsky said about 50% of all fires in the home are caused by cooking mishaps. Heating from space heaters makes up about 10% of all house fires. Unintentional or careless causes such as unattended cooking, candles, and smoking make up about 8% of the fires and 7% of house fires are caused by electrical malfunctions.

What happens if there is a house fire?

Get out. Mikutsky said the minute you smell smoke or see flames, get out of the house. Only when you're out of the house should 9-1-1 be called. Never go back inside, not for a pet or a cherished belonging.

Once everyone is out, stay out. Mikutsky said that fire is going to spread and grow every 30 seconds so it's possible that if you go back inside, you may not be able to get back out. Time is of the essence and time is not always on your side.

Make sure the family meets at the designated location that everyone decided on during the family escape plan meeting. That way, there will be no doubt that everyone is safe.

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