That time has come again. Summer is over, the kids are back in school, and we are all preparing for fall fun and the holidays to follow. This also is the time of year when we all need to refresh ourselves on the finer points of fire safety.
Over the coming months, many of us will be hosting large family gatherings and parties in our yards. There will be cookouts, fire pits, cozy nights in front of the fireplaces, and holiday trees strewn with lights. But in all the revelry, we cannot forget what is important in keeping our families safe. We need to respect the dangers of fire and do our part in preventing them. More than 3,400 Americans die each year in fires and approximately 17,500 are injured. An overwhelming number of fires occur in the home.
Fortunately, there are time-tested ways to prevent and survive a fire. It’s not a question of luck. It’s a matter of planning ahead. Here are some reminders to help keep your families safe in the upcoming year:
Every Home Should Have at Least One Working Smoke Alarm
You can buy a smoke alarm at any hardware or discount store. It’s inexpensive protection for you and your family. Working smoke alarms can double your chances of survival. Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home. Test it monthly, keep it free of dust, and replace the battery at least once a year. Smoke alarms themselves should be replaced after ten years of service or as recommended by the manufacturer.
Prevent Electrical Fires: Never overload circuits or extension cords. Do not place cords and wires under rugs, over nails, or in high traffic areas. Immediately shut off and unplug appliances that sputter, spark, or emit an unusual smell. Have them professionally repaired or replaced.
Use Appliances Wisely: When using appliances, follow the manufacturer’s safety precautions. Overheating, unusual smells, shorts, and sparks are all warning signs that appliances need to be shut off then replaced or repaired. Unplug appliances when not in use. Use safety caps to cover all unused outlets, especially if there are small children in the home.
Alternate Heaters: Portable heaters need their space. Keep anything combustible at least three feet away.
Keep fire in the fireplace; use fire screens and have your chimney cleaned annually. The creosote buildup can ignite a chimney fire that could easily spread.
Kerosene heaters should be used only where approved by authorities. Never use gasoline or camp-stove fuel. Refuel outside and only after the heater has cooled.
Caring for Children: Children under the age of five are naturally curious about fire. Many play with matches and lighters. Take the mystery out of fire play by teaching your children that fire is a tool, not a toy.
Caring for Older People: Every year over 1,000 senior citizens die in fires. Many of these deaths could have been prevented. Seniors are especially vulnerable because many live alone and can’t respond quickly when a fire breaks out.
Most Important of all … Plan Your Escape: Practice an escape plan from every room in the house. Caution everyone to stay low to the floor when escaping from a fire and never open doors that are hot. Select a location where everyone can meet after escaping the house. Get out. Then call for help. Before you call for help, make sure everyone is accounted for and safe. Try to remain calm in order to give the 911 operators the most accurate information.
Facts and information courtesy of the US Fire Administration and FEMA.