Think about fire safety, smoke detectors
Fire calls, fire deaths are on the increase; safety, awareness key to solving problem
Now that autumn is upon us, you can feel the change in the air. College football is here, the leaves will be changing soon, and the week of October 7-13, 2018, will quickly arrive.
What is important about the second week in October? It is National Fire Prevention week.
This week is set aside annually so our nation’s fire service can remind others about fire safety. Across our nation, and especially in South Carolina, there is an increase in fire calls, fire deaths, injuries, and property loss.
Fire is an equal opportunity destroyer of lives and property. In the past five years (since 2013), 337 citizens of South Carolina have lost their lives to fire in 283 separate fire incidents. Of these deaths, 80 percent occurred in single family homes. In 2017, it is reported 67 percent of deadly fires were in single family homes less than 1,500 square foot in size. It is also important to note 65 percent of death victims, during the past five years, were over the age of 49. For more information, the South Carolina Fire Marshal’s Office maintains a fire related database at firesafe.sc.gov
Those statistics are staggering. But, let’s work on changing them in a positive way.
Every fire death and incident can be avoided through safe practices. What is the first line of defense for life safety? Three words – working smoke alarms.
There needs to be working smoke alarms present in every home and/or apartment. A smoke alarm should be placed in every bedroom and on every level of the house/apartment. They should be installed on the ceiling or wall at least 4” away from where the ceiling and walls meet. Once installed, check the alarm monthly, and replace the battery twice a year, using Daylight Saving Time as a guide. Newer alarms actually have a 10 year sealed battery. Why 10 years? Smoke alarms only last for 10 years. Every alarm has a date of manufacture on the back and should be replaced after 10 years.
What is the second line of defense? Creating an escape plan.
Occupants should have an escape plan to include a safe meeting place outside the home such as a tree or mailbox. Schools and business are required to have fire and emergency drills for the safety of students and employees. The fire service recommends practicing an escape from your home to include all occupants. Think of this - during a fire, normal exits may be blocked by smoke and flame.
Every member of a house should know all exit locations, including windows. If your home has a second (or higher) floor, emergency escape ladders can be purchased at a local hardware store or online. And once out of the home – stay out. Never, ever attempt to enter the house after you have exited. Heat and smoke produced by furniture (and structured portions of the house) produce toxic smoke at temperatures exceeding 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit that quickly turn deadly.
Life safety doesn’t stop there. Do you use natural gas, propane, or fuel oil appliances, wood stoves, generators, or other equipment that exhausts carbon monoxide gas?
If you do, you must also have a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm.
CO gas is colorless, odorless, and causes death through the displacement of oxygen. CO alarms should be placed in central locations around sleeping areas, and when they alert, you should call 9-1-1. CO alarms also have an expiration date, based on the individual manufacturer, and should be replaced prior to expiration.
Fire Prevention week serves as an important annual reminder of the danger and effects of an uncontrolled fire. In truth, every day we should plan for the safety for ourselves, family, and friends. We have all heard the statement, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This statement was said by the same person who created the first American Fire Department in 1736, Benjamin Franklin. Let’s take Franklin’s advice and make today, tomorrow, and the next a fire safe day.