The week of Oct. 8-14 is an ideal time for National Fire-Prevention Week because a higher percentage of dwelling fires happen in the cooler months when the home-heating season begins and kitchen stoves are more in use.
And Fire-Prevention Week is the perfect time to review fire-safety reminders with all family members and to take steps to ensure homes and apartments will be safe through the winter and beyond.
The following are fire-safety measures that should be shared with loved ones and then heeded:
Smoke alarms: Be sure to test them by pushing their “test” buttons and installing new batteries at least once a year. Also, if the detectors are more than 10 years old, get new ones.
Heating devices: Make sure to put space heaters at least three feet from any flammable materials, and put them in areas where flammable items cannot be tossed or blown next to them. That includes places where pets cannot run and play.
Furnace: Have your furnace checked by a professional once a year, ideally just before the winter season. Faulty furnaces can easily cause home fires or leak deadly carbon-monoxide fumes.
Candles: Often used during the holiday seasons, candles cause many home fires. Don’t use them in unattended rooms. Place them away from windows where curtains cannot waft onto them. Make sure there are no flammables like newspapers or magazines anywhere nearby. Secure candles so they cannot tip over. Be certain pets cannot get anywhere near them. Some people who have pets wisely decide not to burn any candles at all, period.
Kitchen: The kitchen is the place where most home fires start. Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and make sure all family members know how to use it. All should also learn an important rule in case of an oven or stove-top grease fire: Do NOT pour water on it or use a fire extinguisher as each will cause the grease to sputter and “explode.” Instead, smother the flames. Then, if you can reach it quick enough, toss baking soda onto the mess. Other kitchen tips: Never leave a stove burner on if no one is in the kitchen; make sure the oven and burners are turned off before leaving the house; when cooking try, if at all possible, to stay in or near the kitchen during cooking time.
Dryer: Never leave a dryer on when not at home. Always clean the lint trap after every drying cycle – lint is incredibly flammable. Clean out dryer vents once each year. To remember when, do it when replacing the smoke alarm batteries. There are 15,000 fires caused in this country every year due to clogged dryer vents.
Cords: Check all electric cords for wear and tear, including those on appliances. Such frayed cords are common fire-starters. Do not overload wall sockets with too many extension plugs and cords. During Christmas, do not leave decoration lights on overnight in the home, or during times when nobody is home. Be especially careful of Christmas lights if there are pets.
Bedroom doors: Shut them at night because they can prevent flames and smoke from rushing into a bedroom, giving people vital seconds to escape. Fires spread more rapidly these days because of synthetic materials used in home furnishings and home construction. Toxic fumes cause more deaths than actual burns do.
In the United States, about 2,500 people die in home fires each year. Most fires start between the sleeping hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m..
Please be safe. Learn and heed the fire-safety tips as listed above.
Author: Dennis Dalman
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.