Fire Safety Tips
Winter Fire Safety Tips for the Home
The high cost of home heating fuels and utilities has caused many Americans to search for alternate sources of home heating. The use of wood burning stoves is growing, space heaters are selling rapidly, or coming out of storage. Fireplaces are burning more wood and man-made logs.
All of these supplementary heat measures can be good, but they are also a major contributing factor in many residential fires. Many of these fires are preventable. The following fire safety tips can help you maintain a fire-safe home this winter.
Be sure you heater is in good working condition. Inspect exhaust ports for carbon build-up. Be sure the heater has an emergency shut off that operates in case the heater is tipped over.
- Never use fuel burning appliances without proper room venting. Burning fuel (kerosene, coal, or propane) produces deadly fumes, mostly in the form of carbon monoxide.
- Use only the fuel recommended by the heater manufacturer. Never Introduce a Fuel Into a Unit Not Designed for That Type of Fuel.
- Keep kerosene and other flammable liquids stored in approved metal containers, in well-ventilated storage areas, outside of the house.
- NEVER fill the heater while it is hot or in operation. When refueling an oil or kerosene unit, avoid overfilling. Be careful with cold fuel, for it may expand in the tank as it warms up.
- Keep young children safely away from space heaters-especially when they are wearing nightgowns or other loose clothing that can be easily ignited.
- When using a fuel burning appliance in the bedroom, be sure there is proper ventilation to prevent a build up of carbon monoxide.
Wood Stoves & Fireplaces
Wood stoves and fireplaces are becoming a very common heat source in homes. Careful attention to safety can minimize their fire hazard. To use them safely:
- Be sure the stove or fireplace is installed properly. Wood stoves should have adequate clearance from combustible surfaces, and proper floor support and protection.
- Wood stoves should be of good quality, solid construction and proper design, and should be UL listed.
- Have the chimney inspected annually and cleaned if necessary, especially if it has not been used for some time.
- Do not use flammable liquids to start or accelerate any fire.
- Keep a glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace opening to prevent embers or sparks from jumping out and unwanted materials (or people) from going in.
- Don't use excessive amounts of paper to build roaring fires in fireplaces. It is possible to ignite creosote in the chimney by overbuilding the fire.
- Never burn charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal can give off lethal amounts of carbon monoxide.
- Keep flammable materials away from your mantel. A spark from the fireplace could easily ignite these materials.
- Before you go to sleep, be sure your fireplace fire is out. Never close your damper with hot ashes in the fireplace! A closed damper will help the fire to heat up again and will force toxic carbon monoxide into the house.
If synthetic logs are used, follow directions on the package. Never break a synthetic log apart to quicken the fire, and/or use more than one log at a time. They sometimes burn unevenly, releasing higher levels of carbon monoxide.
Six Steps For Survival
Many home fires happen at night, while most of us are sleeping. Make sure your family can protect itself by knowing these six steps:
- Smoke detectors should be installed on each level of your home and outside sleeping areas. If you sleep with the bedroom door closed, install a detector in the bedroom. Smoke detectors sound an early warning while escape is still possible. Test detectors monthly and replace batteries annually.
- Have a home fire escape plan. Draw out your home on paper and mark at least two exits from each room. Make plans for family members that may need assistance, the very young or old. If exits include windows, make sure they can be easily opened and if they're high, have escape ladders available. Designate a place for everyone to meet once they get outside.
- Practice your plan. Have one practice with family members using their primary exit and another where the secondary way out is used. If necessary, make changes. Fire drills aren't just for school.
- If possible, sleep with bedroom doors closed. In the event of a home fire they can hold back smoke and fire, increasing your time for escape.
- When awakened by your smoke detector, roll out of bed and crawl to your bedroom door. Test the door with the back of your hand for heat. Feel it high, low and touch the knob. If the door is hot, DO NOT open it, and use your secondary exit to escape. If it is cool, open it carefully and be ready to slam it shut if there is smoke or fire.
- Go to your designated meeting place. Have someone go to a neighbor's to call the fire department. Once you're outside, you should never go back into a burning building.
Chimney - Clean Sweep
Imagine a cold winter night, you're in your living room, all cozy and warm by your fireplace, when all of a sudden it sounds as if a freight train is coming down the chimney. You are experiencing a chimney fire!
Each year thousand of homes experience this due to improper maintenance of their chimney. These fires can be prevented by making sure your flue is lined and in good repair, by having it inspected and cleaned regularly by a professional, and by learning how to build fires that reduce the build-up of creosote.
The cause of most chimney fires is creosote, which is a by-product resulting from the incomplete combustion of wood. It accumulates on the sides of your chimney and stovepipe as a liquid and later condenses into a solid. As it builds up, it not only blocks the flue, but can ignite into a roaring fire.
It is recommended that you have your chimney professionally cleaned and inspected at least once a year. If you use your fireplace or wood stove as a primary source of heat for your home, you should consider a cleaning and inspection at the beginning and end of each heating season. To select a chimney sweep, don't just base your decision on cost. Ask if they are certified by the National Chimney Sweep Guild or a trade school. Are they active in a state or local guild? How did they learn their craft? Ask for references.
A professional chimney sweep will do more than brush out your chimney. They inspect your chimney for damage to liners, cracks due to settling, improper installation of prefabricated chimneys and much more.
You can cut down on the build-up of creosote by using your fireplace or wood stove properly. Burn it hot; the hotter the fire, the more complete the combustion. Burn hard woods, i.e., hickory, ash, or maple, that have been seasoned for at least one year. Take care not to burn construction scraps, treated woods, wrapping paper or boughs from evergreens.
When it's time for spring cleaning, remember a clean house is a safe house. The Marshall Fire Department reminds you that trash, boxes, piles of clothes and other combustibles in the home are fuel for a fire. Getting rid of them will help reduce the chance of fire in your home.
When storing heating devices to be used again next winter, make sure electric cords are not frayed or separating. Remember to remove kerosene before storing your kerosene heater. Often overlooked is the electric blanket. Follow the washing, care and storage instructions that come with the blanket.
Clean out storage areas such as garages, attics, closets, sheds, and basements on a regular basis. Even warehouses are limited to the amount of storage they can safely keep. Don't allow areas in your home to become tempting fuel for a fire. Throw away or give away items you are no longer using. Clutter gives fire a place to start and creates obstacles that might prevent escaping safely.
Oily rags can ignite without a heat source because they produce their own heat. Throw them out or store them in a closed metal container. This includes dusting rags used with a furniture polish or spray.
Fireworks Are Dangerous
The National Fire Protection Association reports an average of 10,000 hospital-treated fireworks injuries have occurred in the U.S. over the last several years. In 1985, 15 civilian deaths were caused by fireworks-related fires, with another 11 caused directly by firework injuries. Also, in 1985, $36.4 million in direct property damage resulted from fires started by fireworks.
Most fireworks injuries occur around the 4th of July celebration, but are not limited to that holiday. Many other holidays, Christmas, New Year's, Labor Day, etc. have fireworks as part of their celebration.
How can you use fireworks safely? There are no safe ways. Leave the use of fireworks to the professionals, people who are trained in their proper use. In many areas fireworks are illegal. For the safety of you, your family and friends, obey the law.
Everybody loves an outdoor barbecue. However, outdoor cooking can also lead to tragedy when carelessness causes serious burns.
- When lighting a grill, the safest fire starters are chemicals in cake form or a charcoal electric starter.
- Never add fire starter after you have started your barbecue. The heat from the coals could ignite the stream of liquid and burn back to the can, causing it to explode in your hands. To speed a slow fire, tuck dry kindling under the charcoal.
- Make sure the barbecue grill is level and steady and keep a container of water nearby.
- After cooking, soak the coals in water. Dispose of charcoal in a metal container with a tight fitting lid. Many brush fires start because hot coals, thought to be cool, were dumped in leaves.
- Barbecue grills should never be brought inside the house, tent, or recreational vehicle, because of the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning in sealed or confined areas.
- Keep small children away from the barbecue.
- A bag of damp or wet charcoal should be immediately disposed of, as it can spontaneously combust.
Conventional Heater Safety
So much has been said lately about the advantages and disadvantages of alternative heating sources such as kerosene heaters and wood stoves that the Marshall Fire Department would like to remind you of safety procedures to insure that your standard home heating system is properly maintained.
- Have a professional check and service your heating system every fall. They will look for possible worn out parts, frayed wiring, and blocked heating ducts.
- Keep flammable material away from heat vents. Teach children not to touch these vents as some vents can become very warm while the heating system is in use.
- Electric space heaters should be used only under adult supervision.
- When purchasing an electric space heater, look for a seal from a nationally recognized testing agency, such as Underwriters laboratory (UL) and has Tip Over Protection.
- Make sure that the electric cord is in good condition, not frayed.
- Regular household extension cords should not be used with an electric heater. The heaters draw too much electricity and will overload the cord.
Never put a portable electric heater in a child's bedroom. In an attempt to get warm quickly, they may pull the heater too close to the bed, which could ignite the blankets on the bed.
Holiday Fire Safety
We think of the holidays as happy times, a chance to celebrate with family and friends. The Marshall Fire Department wants to wish you and your family a Safe and Happy Holiday Season, and offers the following suggestions to keep your holiday safe:
- When purchasing a live tree look for signs of freshness. A fresh tree is green. Needles will be hard to pull from branches when bent between your fingers. Fresh needles don't break if bounced on the ground, and a minimum number of needles should fall off.
- To keep your tree fresh, cut off about two inches of the trunk to expose fresh wood for better absorption of water, keep stored outside the house till you're ready to decorate and keep the stand filled with water.
- When placing your tree, make sure it is kept away from sources of heat, like fireplaces or heat vents, and out of the way of traffic.
- Check out your lights before placing them on the tree. Look for worn or frayed wires and broken bulbs. Make sure you do not overload extension cords.
- Take care when using candles. Keep them away from flammable decorations. Place them where they cannot be knocked over or reached by children. Do not leave lit candles in an unattended room.
- Make sure your smoke detectors are working properly. If you'll be traveling to visit family and not sure if they have smoke detectors, take one with you.
A Tornado is a violently rotating column of air extending from the base of the thunderstorm and in contact with the ground (when it is not in contact with the ground, it is called a Funnel Cloud). Tornado winds average 100 mph, but can exceed 300 mph. The strongest tornadoes develop from severe thunderstorms in atmospheric conditions with a wind profile that varies with height. Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes occur most often in the Mid-South in the months of March, April, and May. A secondary season occurs in the Fall, typically November and December. Most tornadoes occur in the afternoon and evening. However, tornadoes have occurred in every hour of the day and night and every month of the year. No time of day or year is immune to tornado occurrences.
Your Safety will improve if you stay alert to the risk of tornadoes from thunderstorms that approach. This is especially true if a Tornado Watch is in effect. Conditions should be carefully monitored when severe thunderstorms are occurring, or are expected to occur.
Severe thunderstorms can produce tornadoes with little or no warning. Know the difference between a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning.
A Tornado Watch means tornadoes may develop; so keep an eye to the sky for thunderstorms and the dangers they pose. Listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or TV for weather statements or warnings. A WATCH allows time to plan what to do if a tornado approaches. A watch usually spans several thousand square miles, and can cover parts of more than one state.
A Tornado Warning means a tornado has been sighted, or is indicated on weather radar. Persons in the path of the tornado should seek shelter immediately.
National Fire Prevention Week
Fire Prevention Week commemorates one of the worst fires in American history - the 1871 Great Chicago Fire. On October 9th, 250 people died and over 17,000 buildings were destroyed in a fire where the property damage was estimated at $169 million dollars. The Fire Marshal's Association established Fire Prevention Day in 1911 to publicize the fire problem. In 1922, President Harding proclaimed National Fire Prevention Week and since that time the National Fire Protection Association has been the official sponsor of Prevention Week activities throughout the nation.
The Marshall Fire Department wants you to remember that fire safety should be practiced every day, and offers the following suggestions:
- Install and maintain smoke detectors on every level of your home.
- Have a home fire escape plan and practice it with your family.
- Keep matches and lighters out of the hands of children.
- Have home heating systems and chimneys inspected by a professional.
- Store flammable liquids in safety cans and outside the house.
In a Fire - Seconds Count
"It started out as a small fire. I was too embarrassed to call the fire department."
Each year many fires that start out small end up causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages because someone was afraid or too embarrassed to call the fire department. During the early stages of a fire, your actions play a crucial role in the safety of your family and the amount of damage that occurs.
Upon discovering a fire, you should sound an alarm, let the people in the area know that there's the potential for danger and that they should evacuate. Call the fire department, even if the fire is small. For every minute a fire burns it doubles in size. Small fires can grow quickly. Only after the first two steps have been completed, should you try to extinguish small fires.
Smoke Detectors - A Sound For Life
If there were to be a fire in your home tonight, would your family survive?
With properly placed and maintained smoke detectors you increase your chances of survival by 50%. In fact, many communities have regulations requiring that at least one smoke detector be installed in homes.
Most residential fire deaths occur at night. This is the time of greatest danger, when people are asleep. The primary killer is smoke and poisonous gases which overcome victims as they sleep. From the time a fire breaks out there is a limited amount of time that a person has to escape. With the early warning of a smoke detector, you can be awakened during the early stages of a fire, while escape is still possible.
When purchasing smoke detectors for your home be sure they are labeled by a nationally recognized fire testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM).
Once you've installed your smoke detectors, their maintenance is very important. Your detector should be tested a minimum of once a month by pressing the test button or using smoke. Replace the batteries according to the manufacturer's recommendation, or at least once a year, using the type of batteries recommended. Because dust and cobwebs can impair the sensitivity of the detector, follow the manufacturer's directions for cleaning.
Properly installed and maintained smoke detectors can provide you and your family with the necessary early warning to escape a home fire.