Fire Prevention

PLEASE READ MORE ABOUT THE FOLOWING FIRE PREVENTION AND SAFETY TOPICS.

Smoke Alarms and Detectors
Carbon Monoxide Emergencies
Fireplace Safety
Barbecue Grill Safety
Holiday Season Safety
Pool Safety

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SMOKE ALARMS AND DETECTORS

Smoke detectors are devices that automatically sound a warning when they sense smoke or other products of combustion. They are usually mounted on a wall or the ceiling. When people are warned early enough about a fire, they can escape before it spreads. You can purchase one starting at $6.

Every year house fires kill thousands. Fire kills an estimated 4,000 Americans every year. Another 30,000 people are seriously injured by fire each year. Property damage from fire costs us at least $11.2 billion yearly. Most fire victims feel that fire would "never happen to them."

Although we like to feel safe at home, about two-thirds of our nation's fire deaths happen in the victim's own home. The home is where we are at the greatest risk and where we must take the most precautions. Most deaths occur from inhaling smoke or poisonous gases, not from the flames.

Most fatal fires occur in residential buildings between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. when occupants are most likely asleep. Over 90 percent of fire deaths in buildings occur in residential dwellings.

A Johns Hopkins University study, funded by the United States Fire Administration, found that 75 percent of residential fire deaths and 84 percent of residential fire injuries could have been prevented by smoke detectors.

There are two basic types of smoke detectors:

1. Ionization detectors - Ionization detectors contain radioactive material that ionizes the air, making an electrical path. When smoke enters, the smoke molecules attach themselves to the ions. The change in electric current flow triggers the alarm. The radioactive material is called americium. It's a radioactive metallic element produced by bombardment of plutonium with high energy neutrons. The amount is very small and not harmful.

2. Photo-electric detectors - This type of detector contains a light source (usually a bulb) and a photocell, which is activated by light. Light from the bulb reflects off the smoke particles and is directed towards the photocell. The photocell then is activated to trigger the alarm.

Choosing a smoke detector:

When choosing a smoke detector, there are several things to consider. Think about which areas of the house you want to protect, where fire would be most dangerous, how many you will need, etc.

The National Fire Protection Agency recommends that every home have a smoke detector outside each sleeping area (inside as well if members of the household sleep with the door closed) and on every level of the home, including the basement. The National Fire Alarm code requires a smoke detector inside each sleeping area for new construction. On floors without bedrooms, detectors should be installed in or near living areas, such as dens, living rooms or family rooms. Smoke detectors are not recommended for kitchens.

Smoke Detector Installation:

The placement of smoke detectors is very important. Sleeping areas need the most protection. One detector in a short hallway outside the bedroom area is usually adequate. Hallways longer than 30 feet should have one at each end. For maximum protection, install a detector in each bedroom.

Be sure to keep the detector away from fireplaces and wood stoves to avoid false alarms. Place smoke detectors at the top of each stairwell and at the end of each long hallway. Smoke rises easily through stairwells. If you should put a smoke detector in your kitchen, be sure to keep it away from cooking fumes or smoking areas.

It’s important to properly mount a smoke detector. You can mount many detectors by yourself, however those connected to your household wiring should have their own separate circuit and be installed by a professional electrician. If you mount your detector on the ceiling, be sure to keep it at least 18 inches away from dead air space near walls and corners. If you mount it on the wall, place it six to 12 inches below the ceiling and away from corners. Keep them high because smoke rises.

Never place them any closer than three feet from an air register that might re-circulate smoke. Don't place them near doorways or windows where drafts could impair the detector operation. Don't place them on an un-insulated exterior wall or ceiling. Temperature extremes can affect the batteries.

Smoke Detector Maintenance:

It’s simple to keep smoke detectors in good condition. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions. Be sure to replace the batteries every year or as needed. Most models will make a chirping, popping or beeping sound when the battery is losing its charge. When this sound is heard, install a fresh battery, preferably an alkaline type.

Remember, every three years to change the bulbs. Keep extras handy. Check the smoke detector every month by releasing smoke or pushing the “test” button. Clean the detector face and grillwork often to remove dust and grease. Never paint a smoke detector as it will hamper its function. Check your detector if you've been away from home.

Smoke Detectors make great housewarming (or any time) gifts. It's an interesting present that can save lives and it shows that you care.

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CARBON MONOXIDE (CO) SAFETY

What is carbon monoxide (CO) and how is it produced?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly, colorless, odorless, poisonous gas. It is produced by the incomplete burning of various fuels, including coal, wood, charcoal, oil, kerosene, propane, and natural gas. Products and equipment powered by internal combustion engines such as portable generators, cars, lawn mowers, and power washers also produce CO.

How many people are unintentionally poisoned by CO?

On average, about 170 people in the United States die every year from CO produced by non-automotive consumer products. These products include malfunctioning fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, ranges, water heaters and room heaters; engine-powered equipment such as portable generators; fireplaces; and charcoal that is burned in homes and other enclosed areas. In 2005 alone, CPSC staff is aware of at least 94 generator-related CO poisoning deaths. Forty-seven of these deaths were known to have occurred during power outages due to severe weather, including Hurricane Katrina. Still others die from CO produced by non-consumer products, such as cars left running in attached garages. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that several thousand people go to hospital emergency rooms every year to be treated for CO poisoning.

What are the symptoms of CO poisoning?

Because CO is odorless, colorless, and otherwise undetectable to the human senses, people may not know that they are being exposed. The initial symptoms of low to moderate CO poisoning are similar to the flu (but without the fever). They include:
o Headache
o Fatigue
o Shortness of breath
o Nausea
o Dizziness

High level CO poisoning results in progressively more severe symptoms, including:
o Mental confusion
o Vomiting
o Loss of muscular coordination
o Loss of consciousness
o Ultimately death

Symptom severity is related to both the CO level and the duration of exposure. For slowly developing residential CO problems, occupants and/or physicians can mistake mild to moderate CO poisoning symptoms for the flu, which sometimes results in tragic deaths. For rapidly developing, high level CO exposures (e.g., associated with use of generators in residential spaces), victims can rapidly become mentally confused, and can lose muscle control without having first experienced milder symptoms; they will likely die if not rescued.

How can I prevent CO poisoning?

o Make sure appliances are installed and operated according to the manufacturer's instructions and local building codes. Most appliances should be installed by qualified professionals. Have the heating system professionally inspected and serviced annually to ensure proper operation. The inspector should also check chimneys and flues for blockages, corrosion, partial and complete disconnections, and loose connections.

o Never service fuel-burning appliances without proper knowledge, skill and tools. Always refer to the owners manual when performing minor adjustments or servicing fuel-burning equipment.

o Never operate a portable generator or any other gasoline engine-powered tool either in or near an enclosed space such as a garage, house, or other building. Even with open doors and windows, these spaces can trap CO and allow it to quickly build to lethal levels.

o Install a CO alarm that meets the requirements of the current UL 2034 safety standard. A CO alarm can provide some added protection, but it is no substitute for proper use and upkeep of appliances that can produce CO. Install a CO alarm in the hallway near every separate sleeping area of the home. Make sure the alarm cannot be covered up by furniture or draperies.

o Never use portable fuel-burning camping equipment inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent unless it is specifically designed for use in an enclosed space and provides instructions for safe use in an enclosed area.

o Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle, or tent.

o Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even with the garage door open.

o Never use gas appliances such as ranges, ovens, or clothes dryers to heat your home.

o Never operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in any room where people are sleeping.

o Do not cover the bottom of natural gas or propane ovens with aluminum foil. Doing so blocks the combustion air flow through the appliance and can produce CO.

o During home renovations, ensure that appliance vents and chimneys are not blocked by tarps or debris. Make sure appliances are in proper working order when renovations are complete.

What CO level is dangerous to my health?

The health effects of CO depend on the CO concentration and length of exposure, as well as each individual's health condition. CO concentration is measured in parts per million (ppm). Most people will not experience any symptoms from prolonged exposure to CO levels of approximately 1 to 70 ppm but some heart patients might experience an increase in chest pain. As CO levels increase and remain above 70 ppm, symptoms become more noticeable and can include headache, fatigue and nausea. At sustained CO concentrations above 150 to 200 ppm, disorientation, unconsciousness, and death are possible.

What should I do if I am experiencing symptoms of CO poisoning and do not have a CO alarm, or my CO alarm is not going off?

If you think you are experiencing any of the symptoms of CO poisoning, get outside to fresh air immediately. Leave the home and call your fire department to report your symptoms from a neighbor’s home. You could lose consciousness and die if you stay in the home. It is also important to contact a doctor immediately for a proper diagnosis. Tell your doctor that you suspect CO poisoning is causing your problems. Prompt medical attention is important if you are experiencing any symptoms of CO poisoning. If the doctor confirms CO poisoning, make sure a qualified service person checks the appliances for proper operation before reusing them.

Are CO alarms reliable?

CO alarms always have been and still are designed to alarm before potentially life-threatening levels of CO are reached. The safety standards for CO alarms have been continually improved and currently marketed CO alarms are not as susceptible to nuisance alarms as earlier models.

How should a consumer test a CO alarm to make sure it is working?

Consumers should follow the manufacturer's instructions. Using a test button tests whether the circuitry is operating correctly, not the accuracy of the sensor. Alarms have a recommended replacement age, which can be obtained from the product literature or from the manufacturer.

How should I install a CO Alarm?

CO alarms should be installed according to the manufacturer's instructions. CPSC recommends that one CO alarm be installed in the hallway outside the bedrooms in each separate sleeping area of the home. CO alarms may be installed into a plug-in receptacle or high on the wall. Hard wired or plug-in CO alarms should have battery backup. Avoid locations that are near heating vents or that can be covered by furniture or draperies. CPSC does not recommend installing CO alarms in kitchens or above fuel-burning appliances.

What should you do when the CO alarm sounds?

Never ignore an alarming CO alarm! It is warning you of a potentially deadly hazard.
If the alarm signal sounds do not try to find the source of the CO:

a. Immediately move outside to fresh air.

b. Call your emergency services, fire department, or 911.

c. After calling 911, do a head count to check that all persons are accounted for. DO NOT reenter the premises until the emergency services responders have given you permission. You could lose consciousness and die if you go in the home.

d. If the source of the CO is determined to be a malfunctioning appliance, DO NOT operate that appliance until it has been properly serviced by trained personnel.

If authorities allow you to return to your home, and your alarm reactivates within a 24 hour period, repeat steps 1, 2 and 3 and call a qualified appliance technician to investigate for sources of CO from all fuel burning equipment and appliances, and inspect for proper operation of this equipment. If problems are identified during this inspection, have the equipment serviced immediately. Note any combustion equipment not inspected by the technician and consult the manufacturers’ instructions, or contact the manufacturers directly, for more information about CO safety and this equipment. Make sure that motor vehicles are not, and have not been, operating in an attached garage or adjacent to the residence.

Do some cities require that CO alarms be installed?

Many states and local jurisdictions now require CO alarms be installed in residences. Check with your local building code official to find out about the requirements in your location.

Should CO alarms be used in motor homes and other recreational vehicles?

CO alarms are available for boats and recreational vehicles and should be used. The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association requires CO alarms in motor homes and in towable recreational vehicles that have a generator or are prepped for a generator.

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FIREPLACE SAFETY

Nothing is quite as cozy as a warm, crackling fire in the fireplace. But if you don't take some simple safety precautions, that fire could turn deadly. Each year, roughly 6,000 people end up in the emergency room for injuries associated with fireplaces and fireplace equipment... most of which involve children under five years old.

Approximately 14,000 early house fires are start in a fireplace. Most of these fires escalated beyond the fireplace because of an overloaded fire, a damaged fireplace (missing bricks), obstructed flues, ignition of nearby combustibles, and flying sparks.

Keep your family safe and warm by following these fireplace safety tips:

• Inspect the fireplace. Make sure it has adequate protective linings and smoke ducts. Check to see that the chimney is clear and in good repair.

• If you are installing a factory-made fireplace, it should not be located near any combustible materials. It should also have adequate flame and heat barriers.

• Have chimneys inspected annually, and cleaned as necessary, by a CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) Certified Chimney Sweep. This reduces the risk of fires and carbon monoxide poisonings due to creosote buildup or obstructions in the chimneys. To locate a certified sweep, visit the CSIA Web site at www.csia.org or call 1-800-536-0118. A certified sweep can also perform maintenance on your wood stove or help remove gas logs from a fireplace.

• Keep the top of chimneys clear of tree limbs or debris.

• Install a chimney cap to keep debris and animals out of the chimney.

• Always open the damper before lighting the fire and keep it open until the ashes are cool. This will avert the build-up of poisonous gases, such as carbon monoxide.

• Fuel the fire safely. For burning firewood in wood stoves or fireplaces, choose well-seasoned wood that has been dried for a minimum of six months to a year and stored properly.

• Build it right. Place firewood or firelogs at the rear of the fireplace on a supporting grate. To start the fire, use a firelighter.

• Never use gasoline, charcoal lighter or other fuel to light or relight a fire because the vapors can explode. Never keep flammable fuels near a fire. Vapors can travel the length of a room and explode.

• Do not use coal or charcoal in a fireplace because of the danger of carbon monoxide build-up. Do not burn trash or gift wrap in the fireplace because polystyrene foam and other coated materials can generate deadly fumes. Flying paper embers could also ignite the roof.

• Do not treat artificial logs like real logs. Artificial logs are usually made of sawdust and wax and have special burning properties. Be sure to read the instructions on the logs and follow them carefully. Use just one log at a time and do not add another log until the fire is completely out. Never add an artificial log to a natural wood fire that is already burning. Wait at least two hours before adding an artificial log to a natural log fire because it could cause a flare-up.

• Do not poke artificial logs because the flaming wax could stick to the poker and drop onto the floor or carpet. Poking a log could also cause a flare-up.

• Home rolled newspaper logs should never be soaked in flammable fuels of any kind because of the severe danger of explosion. Soaking the newspaper in water either before rolling or during rolling removes the clay content and will provide a better burning log. Then, stack the logs on end and let them dry for two weeks in the basement. When lighting the newspaper logs, use kindling just as you would for a regular fire.

• Do not overload the fireplace. Large fires can lead to overheating of wall or roof materials, particularly if the fireplace is constructed of metal.

• Always use a screen around the fireplace to keep sparks from flying out and to protect children and adults from accidental clothing ignition.

• Warn children about the danger of fire. Do not let them play with fire.

• Keep flammable materials such as carpets, pillows, furniture or papers away from the fireplace area.

• At holiday time, make sure the Christmas tree is not close enough to be ignited by a spark. Be especially careful of accidentally igniting holiday wrapping papers.

• Always make sure that the fire is completely extinguished before going to bed for the night or when leaving the house

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BARBECUE GRILL SAFETY

Check your grill thoroughly for leaks, cracking or brittleness before using it.

Check the tubes leading to the burner regularly for blockages. Check with your specific grill manufacturer's instructions.

Make sure the grill is at least 10 feet away from your house, garage or trees.

Store and use your grill on a large flat surface that cannot burn (i.e.- concrete or asphalt).

Don't use grills in a garage, porch, deck or on top of anything that can catch on fire. Never use a propane barbecue grill on a balcony, terrace or roof. It is both dangerous and illegal.

Keep children away from fires and grills. It is a good idea to establish a safety zone around the grill and instruct children to remain outside the zone. A chalk line works great for this purpose.

Have a fire extinguisher, a garden hose attached to a water supply, or at least 16-quarts of water close by in case of a fire.

Before getting a propane cylinder filled, check for any damages to it.

Never transport or store propane cylinders in the trunk of your automobile.

DURING BARBECUING:

Don't wear loose clothing that might catch fire.

Use long handled barbecue tools and/or flame resistant mitts.

Never use any flammable liquid other than a barbecue starter fluid to start or freshen a fire.

Never pour or squirt starter fluid onto an open flame. The flame can easily flashback along the fluid's path to the container in your hands.

Keep alcoholic beverages away from the grill, they are flammable!

Never leave the grill unattended

When lighting your propane barbecue, make sure all the connections are secure and open the lid and strike your match or lighter BEFORE turning on the gas.

ALWAYS shut off the propane fuel at the grill and at the bottle after you have finished barbecuing. Otherwise, this will lead to fire hazards, such as leaks and faulty regulators.

Store your BBQ and propane cylinder outdoors.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the safe use, cleaning and maintenance of your BBQ.

Test your cylinder for leaks on a regular basis. When testing for leaks, never use matches or an open flame. Use soapy water or a leak detector.

Store your cylinder away from heat and insert a safety plug on the valve.

AFTER BARBECUING:

Always follow the manufacturer's cleaning and storing instructions that accompany the grill.

Keep your grill clean and free of grease buildup that may lead to a fire.

Never store liquid or pressurized fuels inside your home and/or near any possible sources of flame.

IN CASE OF A BARBECUE FIRE:

For PROPANE Grills - turn off the burners. For CHARCOAL Grills - close the grill lid. Disconnect the power to ELECTRIC Grills.

For PROPANE Grills - if you can safely reach the tank valve, shut it off.

If the fire involves the tank, leave it alone, evacuate the area and call the fire department.

If there is any type of fire that either threatens your personal safety or endangers property, ALWAYS DIAL 911.

NEVER attempt to extinguish a grease fire with water. It will only cause the flames to flare up. Use an approved portable fire extinguisher.

Propane barbecue grills and no more than two (2) 20-pound propane tanks are allowed on the grounds of a one or two-family home, but be sure to follow the fire safety precautions above.

Only use a charcoal barbecue on a balcony or terrace if there is a ten-foot clearance from the building and there is an immediate source of water (garden hose or four (4) gallon pail of water).

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HOLIDAY SEASON SAFETY

Christmas is a special time of year and should not end in tragedy because of the extra hazards presented due to the holidays. Here is some advice on how to keep your family and your home safe this holiday season:

Christmas Lights:

Decorative lights get used much less often than your everyday lights, and they need more care. Check the fuses are the right type (see the box for the maximum size of fuse you should use).
• If bulbs blow, replace them.
• Don't leave fairy lights on when you go out or when you go to sleep.
• Don't let the bulbs touch anything that can burn easily, like paper.
• Don't overload sockets.

Holiday Decorations:

Decorations made of light tissue paper or cardboard burn easily.
• Don't attach them to lights or heaters.
• Don't put them immediately above or around the fireplace.
• Keep them away from candles.

Keep children away from light sets and electrical decorations. All lights present the problem of shock and casualty hazards for curious kids. When you are stringing the lights on your tree, be careful how you place them. Keep all bulbs turned away from gifts and paper ornaments. Lights in windows can cause curtains and drapes to ignite.
Candles

Candles are a traditional and beautiful part of the season. But they are still a direct source of fire in your home. Keep candles a safe distance from other things. And remember that a flickering flame is a thing of fascination to little children. Keep candles out of their reach.

• Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens.
• Always use non-flammable holders.
• Keep candles away from decorations and wrapping paper.
• Place candles where they cannot be knocked down or blown over.
Paper

Christmas Trees Safety:

Special fire safety precautions need to be taken when keeping a live tree in the house. A burning tree can rapidly fill a room with fire and deadly gases.
Keep your Christmas tree moist. Trees that are not kept moist can present a very serious fire hazard. A dried out Christmas tree can be totally consumed by fire in less than 30 seconds. Take precautions when buying your Christmas tree. Trees with brown shedding needles should be rejected. If the tree looks green and fresh, take a long needle and bend it between your thumb and forefinger. If it snaps, the tree is too dry. Look for trees with needles that bend. When the trunk of a tree is bounced on the ground, a shower of falling needles shows that tree is dry.

When you bring a tree home, cut about an inch off the bottom of its trunk. This will remove the dried end and allow the tree to absorb water. Make checkerboard cuts into the base at different angles to make a greater surface for water absorption.

Always turn off lights on trees and other decorations when you go to bed or leave your home. A short circuit in any of this equipment could cause a fire. Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. Damaged insulation in lighting on a metallic tree could cause the entire tree to be charged with electricity. To avoid this danger, use colored spotlights above or beside a metal tree, never fastened onto it.

Selecting a Tree for Christmas:

Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needle should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.

Caring for Your Christmas Tree:

Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.

Disposing of Your Christmas Tree:

Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood burning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community pick-up service.

Safety Oriented Christmas Gifts:

One of the best Christmas gifts you can get someone is a smoke detector. A smoke detector is worth so much, possibly a loved one's life, yet so inexpensive. Over 90 percent of fire deaths occur in residential dwellings between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. when occupants are asleep. Smoke detectors alert occupants when a fire is still small and there is still time to escape.

Holiday Plants:

Holly and mistletoe can be fatal to a small child and the smaller the child, the smaller the dose that can cause serious medical problems. Poinsettia leaves are not fatal if swallowed, but can cause a skin rash and an upset stomach. Call 9-1-1 if your children ingest either of these holiday plants.

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POOL SAFETY

Unfortunately, it takes just seconds for a child to drown. Drowning is the leading cause of death in many states for children under the age of five. Most of these children drown in their own backyard swimming pool, but others drown in buckets, bathtubs, toilets, dog water bowls, canals and ponds. Small children are top-heavy, and they don't have the upper body strength to lift themselves out of one of these dangerous situations. Even if the child survives the incident, they are often left with permanent brain damage.
Drowning and near drowning can be prevented, and you can help! Anyone involved with the supervision of children needs to be aware of the dangers associated with any body of water. Below are important tips to prevent needless tragedies.

• Know where your children are at all times
• Use an approved barrier to separate the pool from the house
• Never allow children to be alone near a pool or any water source, no exceptions!
• Have life-saving devices near the pool, such as a pole/hook, or flotation device
• Keep large objects such as tables, chairs, toys, away from pool fences
• Post the 9-1-1 number on the phone
• Do not allow children to play near the pool and store toys outside the pool area
• If you leave the pool area, always take the children with you
• Always have a “designated child watcher”
• Learn to swim
• Never swim alone, or while under the influence of alcohol or medications
• Never swim when thunder or lightning is present
• Never dive into unfamiliar or shallow bodies of water