Are You Fire Safe?

Fire Prevention Week 2009 takes place Oct. 4-10, with an emphasis on preventing fires at home and in the workplace. There’s no argument the numbers associated with fires of both types are too high: Michael J. Karter Jr.’s August 2009 report, "Fire Loss in the United States During 2008," posted by NFPA, showed U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 1,451,500 fires during the year that killed 3,320 civilians, injured 16,705 civilians, and caused an estimated $15.5 billion in direct property losses. Home fires caused 2,755 (83 percent) of the civilian fire deaths.

Here's the stunning statistic for everyone who does not work in the fire service, however: Only 6 percent of the 25,252,500 total calls in 2008 involved fires. Another 9 percent of the calls were false alarms, and 62 percent were requests for aid, such as EMS. Lost in the debate over solving the crisis of uninsured Americans this year has been the toll on hospitals, fire departments, and their personnel from emergency calls and visits by the uninsured, including ambulance runs for patients not in need of emergency care.

The theme of Five Prevention Week 2009 is basic: "Stay Fire Smart! Don't Get Burned." Information on the week's Web site includes this advice:

  • Keep hot foods and liquids away from tables and counter edges so they cannot be pulled or knocked over.
  • Have a 3-foot "kid-free" zone around the stove.
  • Never hold a child in your arms while preparing hot food or drinking a hot beverage.
  • Teach children that hot things hurt.
  • Be careful when using things that get hot, such as curling irons, oven, irons, lamps, heaters.
  • When using heating pads only use for 15-20 minutes at a time and don't lie, sit, or place anything on the pad.
  • To avoid scalds, set the thermostat setting in your water heater to no higher than 120 degrees F.
  • Remember, young children's and older adults' skin burns more easily.
  • Consider having "anti-scald" devices on tub faucets and shower heads to prevent scalds.
  • Test the water before placing a child or yourself in the tub.
  • Never leave young children alone in the tub, shower, or near a sink.
  • Infants' bathwater should be no more than 100 degrees. Even when using a thermometer, use your wrist, elbow, or the back of your hand as your main guide.

Cool a Burn
Treat a burn right away. Put it in cool water for three to five minutes. Cover with a clean, dry cloth. Also, follow this guidance:

  • If the burn is bigger than your fist or if you have questions, get medical help right away.
  • Remove all clothing, diapers, jewelry, and metal from the burned areas.

Cooking with Caution
The leading cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking. Pay attention to what you are cooking. Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. In addition:

  • When you are simmering, boiling, baking, or roasting food, check it regularly, stay in the home, and use a timer to remind you.
  • If you must leave the room even for a short time, turn off the stove.
  • If you have young children, use the stove’s back burners whenever possible.
  • Keep children and pets at least 3 feet away from the stove.
  • When you cook, wear clothing with tight-fitting or short sleeves.
  • Allow food cooked in a microwave oven to cool for a few minutes before you take it out.
  • Open microwaved food slowly. Hot steam from the container can cause burns.

The Heat is On
Use a fireplace screen to keep sparks inside the fireplace. Turn portable space heaters off when you go to bed or leave the room. In addition:

  • Keep things that can burn, such as paper, bedding, or furniture, at least 3 feet from heaters.
  • Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected each year by a professional.
  • Make sure your portable space heater has an auto shutoff so if it is tipped over, it will shut off.
  • Have your chimneys cleaned and inspected before each heating season.

Take it Outside
Ask smokers to smoke outside, and give them deep, sturdy ashtrays. Never smoke if you are tired, have taken medicine, drugs, or alcohol that makes you sleepy. Keep smoking materials away from things that can burn, such as bedding, furniture, and clothing.

Stay Grounded
Keep lamps, light fixtures, and light bulbs away from anything that can burn, such as lampshades, bedding, curtains, and clothing. In addition:

  • Replace cracked and damaged electrical cords.
  • Use extension cords for temporary wiring only. Consider having additional circuits or receptacles added by a qualified electrician.
  • Call a qualified electrician or landlord if you have recurring problems with blowing fuses or tripping circuit breakers, discolored or warm wall outlets, flickering lights, or a burning or rubbery smell coming from an appliance.
  • Neighborhood Watch
    With the economic downturn, it is important to keep a watchful eye on your neighborhood. Encourage your community to implement an anti-arson program. In addition:

    • Keep trash from collecting on your property.
    • Remove abandoned vehicles from your property.
    • Remove dead branches that could be used as a fuel source.

    Fire Safety Basics
    Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. For the best protection, interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound. In addition:

    • For best protection, use both photoelectric and ionization technology. You can use individual ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms or combination units that contain both technologies in the same unit.
    • Test smoke alarms at least once a month using the test button.
    • Replace smoke alarms every 10 years.
    • Make sure everyone can hear the sound of the smoke alarms.
    • Have a home fire escape plan. Know at least two ways out of every room, if possible, and a meeting place outside. Practice your escape plan twice a year.
    • When the smoke alarm sounds, get out and stay out.
    • If you are building or remodeling your home, consider a home fire sprinkler system.

    Posted by Jerry Laws on Oct 01, 2009

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