Dot gov

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.


Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Burn Awareness

Burns are injuries caused from exposure to fire, heat, or a heat-producing agent. In 2005, burns were the cause of death of 61 Wisconsin residents, resulting in 666 hospitalizations, and 7,773 visits to the emergency department. Nationally, deaths from fires and burns are the fifth most common cause of deaths related to unintentional injury (CDC 2005) and the third leading cause of fatal home injury (Runyan, 2004). The majority of burn injuries occur in the home, where prevention steps can be taken.

General steps to protect from burns

  1. Cook carefully!
    Cooking is the primary cause of residential fires.
    • Never leave food unattended on a stove.
    • Keep pot handles turned inward.
    • Keep cooking areas free of towels and other flammable objects.
    • When cooking, wear clothes that fit properly and do not have long, loose-fitting sleeves.
  2. Quit smoking!
    Smoking is the leading cause of fire-related deaths!
    • Never smoke in bed or leave burning cigarettes unattended.
    • Do not empty smoldering ashes into a trash can.
    • Keep ashtrays away from upholstered furniture and curtains.
  3. Use smoke detectors!
    Smoke alarms lower the chance of dying in a house fire by 40-50%.
    • Install smoke alarms on all levels in the home, including basements and attics, and near rooms where people sleep.
    • Use long-life smoke alarms with lithium-powered batteries and hush buttons so you can quiet them without removing the batteries.
    • If long-life alarms are not available, use regular alarms and replace the batteries annually.
    • Test all smoke alarms monthly to be sure they function.
  4. Special tips for households with young children:
    • Don’t leave containers of hot liquids/food on or near the edge of furniture.
    • Don’t carry or eat hot liquids or food while holding a child.
    • Don't leave burning candles within reach of young children.
    • Always test food temperatures before serving.
    • Keep matches and lighters out of children’s reach.
    • Keep water heater set at 120-125 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent scalding; test water before placing child in bathtub.
    • Cover unused electrical outlets with safety caps.
  5. Special tips for people with disabilities:
    • Make and practice escape routes that accommodate physical disabilities and/or assistive devices.
    • Involve others in your safety plan, such as the building manager or a neighbor.
    • Introduce yourself to local fire department staff to share information about your needs and to ask for their help in developing the safety plan.
    • Ask local emergency dispatchers to keep your special needs information on file.
    • If hearing impaired, install and maintain a flashing or vibrating smoke alarm on each level of your home.
  6. Special considerations:
    • Poverty limits availability and access to safe and adequate housing equipped with smoke alarms, sprinkler systems, or multiple escape routes.
    • For older adults, decreased hearing may inhibit hearing a smoke alarm, delay the discovery of a fire, and delay escape. Older adults living alone may not have access to help if burned, or access to assistance in escaping a house fire.
    • College-age adults often share the belief that disaster "cannot happen to me." Misuse of cooking appliances, overloaded electrical circuits, multiple extension cords, unattended candles, ignoring fire alarms when they sound, and unfamiliarity with evacuation routes can increase risk of fires and burns. Alcohol use can also decrease awareness and the ability to effectively escape a burn threat.
    • For rural residents, alternative heating sources such as wood stoves, electric space heaters, kerosene heaters, and fireplaces all pose increased risks of fires and burns. Use of chemicals in farming can expose skin to abrasives.
    • Multi-level apartment buildings in urban areas often have bars on windows or locked doors to prevent falls and provide security. Each of these should have a quick release device allowing them to be opened immediately in an emergency. People working or living in high-rise buildings should know the sounds of the building alarms and evacuation plans.

More information about burn prevention and safety

Last revised December 1, 2017