By Samuetta Hill Drew
The Week of October 7 – 13th is National Fire Prevention Week. The U. S. Fire Administration reports that 4,000 Americans are killed by fires each year and approximately 20,000 more are injured. It has been noted by fire departments that they respond to almost 2 million fires annually with three quarters of them occurring at someone’s home. With these types of yearly numbers, it’s important for us to recognize the importance of Fire Prevention Week and review some safety prevention steps residents can use.
Let’s begin with the most obvious – smoke alarms. Surprisingly, I can’t tell you the number of homes who either still don’t have them or have them with worn out batteries. They are one of the best, inexpensive preventive measures homeowners can use to help save lives and injuries. They should be installed on every level of your home and tested monthly. Make sure you keep fresh batteries in them! Many will alert you when it’s time to change the batteries.
Another safety prevention step is not to overload your circuits or extension cords. This can contribute to electrical fires. Also do not place cords or wires underneath rugs or in a right of way. Poor connections between the plug and the outlet can cause overheating and start a fire in a matter of minutes.
Unplug your small appliances when they are not in use – like blenders, etc. Always follow the manufacturer’s safety precautions. Also use common sense to identify possible problems. If you smell something strange from a plug, or it shorts out or sparks, then unplug the appliance immediately. Have it replaced or repaired before using it again.
Winter is approaching, so if you use space heaters in your home, make sure there is ample space around them when they are in use. It should be at least three feet away from anything which could catch fire like drapes, bedspreads, etc. Inspect your chimney every year before using it. Make sure you have a screen in front of your fireplace to contain the fire inside the fireplace.
Fire safety sprinklers for homes are now more affordable and increase the survival rate of residents when used along with home smoke alarms. They increase your property value and lower your insurance rates.
Make sure you have a safety escape plan for your family in case of fire. All family members should be aware of the plan. Conduct routine safety drills and practice staying low to the floor and checking for hot doors using the back of your hand.
Make sure you clean your dryer vents regularly. Clean the lint filter every time you start a load of clothes to dry or after the drying cycle has ended.
The main holiday season when residents adorn their homes with lights and other outdoor decorative items depicting the seasons like inflatable characters for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas is just around the corner. It is very important you check your lights before using them. Discard them if they have frayed or exposed wires.
Since this is National Fire Prevention Week, it’s an excellent time to Keep an Eye on Safety this week by conducting a home safety inspection. Check your home’s electronic equipment and wiring. It will take a little time, but your family’s safety will be well worth it!