01 Dec Winter Fire Safety Tips
WINTER FIRE SAFETY TIPS
The following winter fire safety tips are presented to you by Advocate Public Adjustment. Please read the following tips as they may save your life, prevent serious injuries, or limit property damage.
4,000 people die every year from fire related incidents, and 20,000 are seriously injured, many with painful burns.
U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 210 home structure fires per year that began with Christmas trees in 2010-2016. These fires caused an annual average of six civilian deaths, 16 civilian injuries, and $16.2 million in direct property damage.
On average, one of every 34 reported home Christmas tree fires resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 142 total reported home fires. Although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they do occur, they are much more likely to be deadly than most other fires.
In one-quarter (26%) of the Christmas tree fires and 80% of the deaths, some type of heat source, such as a candle or equipment, was too close to the tree.
1. Pick the right tree. If your family prefers getting a real tree, make sure to get one with fresh, green needles that do not fall of when touched. Shedding needles mean your tree is drying out and is a fire hazard. A fresh tree in a stable stand that holds 1 quart of water per inch of the tree’s stem’s diameter. Cut one to two inches off the stem before placing the tree in the stand, and be sure to replace water daily. If you are going for an artificial tree, make sure to check its label or with the manufacturer to verify that it is fire retardant.
2. Find the right spot. When you put your tree up, keep it at least three feet away from heat sources, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents, or lights. Also, make sure your tree isn’t blocking any entrance or exit from the room or home.
3. Use the right decorations. Never use candles to decorate the tree. It might seem like a sweet, old-timey look, but as we discussed, there’s a reason why we stopped using them!
4. When decorating your tree, use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Check strands of lights for any signs of damage or wear. Replace any with worn or broken cords, or loose bulb connections.
5. Only connect up to three strands of mini string sets to light your tree, or a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs. If using LED lights read manufacturer’s instructions for the maximum recommended number of strands to connect.
6. Unplug the tree before leaving the house or going to bed, and make sure to have at several fire extinguishers in the house.
7. Dispose of your tree properly. Get rid of your tree when it begins shedding needles. Check with your community to find a tree recycling program to properly dispose of the tree. Dried-out needles themselves are a fire hazard, so old trees should not be left in homes or garages.
8. 80% of fire and smoke related deaths occur in homes without working smoke detectors. One of the most significant things you can do is to make sure that smoke detectors are placed near bedrooms on every level of your home and at the top of every stairway. This alone will reduce the chance of you becoming a fire victim by 50%.
9. Test your smoke detectors’ batteries regularly and never take a battery from any smoke detector unit…EVER!
10. Have both a primary and a secondary escape route plan from each room. Have a designated place outside for all family members to meet if there is a fire. People have died trying to rescue someone who has successfully escaped the building.
11. Put into Practice both escape plans regularly, especially with smaller children. Why not rehearse your plans in the presence of your children, friends and cousins? Encourage their friends and cousins to initiate fire safety techniques in their homes too. Fire safety is a great topic for a child to write about as a school report.
12. Escape doors, hallways, and windows must be clear of barriers and easy to open.
13. If fire or smoke is noticed, all members must leave the house immediately. Call for help from a next-door neighbor’s house or use a cell phone outside. Many fatalities have occurred because of the delay to immediately evacuate in order to call 911. Fires generate toxic, dangerous, harmful deadly gases which can make you quickly impaired. Once you make it out of the home stay out!
14. Obviously, upstairs bedrooms should have some sort of rope ladder, or escape devise to exit windows. Speaking of windows, make certain that all windows including storm windows operate at all times.
15. If a basement is used for sleeping or entertainment purposes, then an extra-large knock-out window big enough for a large person can escape. Often building codes dictate the sizes so check with your local building code enforcement official.
16. It is wise not to use extension cords, but if absolutely necessary, make sure they are UL approved, heavy duty and are the right length for intended use. Example: a 50-foot extension cord for a 6-foot run is a major fire hazard. The excess cord is coiled up and creates resistance causing heat. Heat causes fire.
17. Never used frayed or cracked electrical cords.
18. Never put a cord under rugs, over nails, or in high-traffic areas.
19. Never overload electrical outlets or extension cords.
20. Make sure all fuses in the fuse box are the correct size. Please do not use jumpers.
21. Make sure all electrical outlets and switches have cover plates and no exposed wiring.
22. If a space heater is used, make sure the extension cord does not get hot. This could be a sign of a overload.
23. If a space heater has to be used, make sure it is in a place where it cannot be knocked over and is a safe and secure distance away from combustibles such as curtains, bedding, furniture, and anything else that can easily ignite. Some fires even occur when someone dries wet towels or socks by hanging them over the space heater or heat lamp. It is dangerous to use an extension cord for a space heater.
24. Many fires occur in the kitchen around the stove. Do not put small pans on large burners or large pans on small burners. Do not use dish towels as pot holders, and always turn pot handles away from the front of the stove. People who cook with baggy clothes, often find them ignited by brushing against the hot burner. Also have a large container of baking soda or fire extinguishers nearby when cooking.
25. Try not to store anything over the stove. Many people get burned reaching, and again, loose fitting garments can catch fire.
26. Flammable materials should not be stored inside your home, but if they are, they should be stored in a cool, isolated place, preferably in a heavy-duty metal cabinet. Fumes from flammable materials are often ignited by pilot lights or the lighting of a cigarette. Avoid basements, and where mechanical systems are installed.
27. If smoking is allowed in the house, use large ash trays. If guests are over, make sure they have large ash trays available. Always soak cigarette butts before discarding them.
28. Consider designating a specific area in a house where smoking can take place. It is very easy for the smoker who is a little careless to cause a fire. Sometimes they need to be watched. Animals can also knock over ash trays onto sofas and other ignitable items.
29. Allow plenty of air space around the TV and stereo to prevent overheating.
30. Keep lighters and matches away from small children. Children are naturally curious of fire, and in many cities, over 50% of all fires are caused by young children. They are easily tempted to play with matches and lighters. Even worse is when they start a fire and often get scared. Then instead of yelling for help, they run and hide underneath a bed or in a closet.
31. If you have a fire place, be sure to use a metal screen.
32. Have your chimney checked and cleaned regularly. Look for bird and animal nests
33. Never smoke in bed. Hundreds of people die every year because they fall asleep with a cigarette in bed, on the sofa, or in a chair.
34. If a fuse blows, find the cause…this could be a sign of a short somewhere. Electrical shorts cause arcing, arcing means sparks and sparks cause fires.
35. Do not store things close to your furnace or hot water heater. These units have pilot light flames that can cause combustibles to ignite. In addition, do not spray paint near these types of units.
36. Because it is so important, we repeat it again. If a fire occurs, GET OUT IMMEDIATELY! Do not try to grab your possessions. Do not call 911 from your house unless everyone is out and you can call from an exterior doorway. It is best to go to the nearest neighbor’s house to call.
37. If your clothes catch fire, do not run! Stop where you are, cover your face with your hands, drop to the ground, and roll over to smother the flames. This is called “stop, drop, and roll.”
38. Do not use butter or margarine on a minor burn. Cool water is better. Obviously though, any large or deep burn must have medical attention immediately.
39. Smoke inhalation claims more lives than the fire or heat. When evacuating a burning building, try to avoid smoky ways out. If you have no choice, get down and crawl as low as you can to find the best remaining air as you escape. The smoke and toxic gases will rise leaving any good air low to the floor.
40. If the fire occurs in the same room you are in, try to close the door behind you on your way out. Also close all other doors behind you. This will give it less oxygen and delay the fire from spreading.
41. If you believe there is a fire but do not know where it is, before opening a closed door, use the back of your hand to touch it. Don’t open it if it feels warm. Not only will smoke instantly fill the room you are in, but by supplying the fire with a whole room of oxygen, the sudden back draft of flames may consume you almost instantly. Even if it does not feel warm, open it very slowly with your shoulder against it. If any smoke or heat comes in, slam it shut and use your alternate escape route.
42. If you find that your exit is cut off by the fire, it will not be easy, but try to remain calm and do not panic. Try to conserve your energy to help yourself survive. Close the door nearest to the fire, and if available, use towels or sheets to block any smoke and toxic gases. This will help keep smoke from spreading into the room. If the room becomes smoky, get down to the floor level. It’s easier to breathe because the smoke will rise upward. Go to the window if you are on an upper floor, open the window, and if you do not have your rope ladder, try to attract the attention of others who can alert the fire department. If you are in immediate danger, you will have no choice but to jump. If available, drop cushions or bedding or any other soft items to the ground to break your fall. Then, crawl out of the window feet first and lower yourself to the full length of your arms before dropping.
43. Print a copy of this list and refer to it regularly. Why not print a couple for your friends and relatives?
44. Candles are very, very dangerous. They are often forgotten and can easily be tipped over by children or pets.
45. Curling irons cause many fires. They are placed on surfaces that are easily ignited and/or are not turned off before leaving the room. Many models have an automatic turn off feature which is highly recommended for your safety sake.
46. Never leave oily rags laying around. Those with linseed oil are the most dangerous. Store them in sealed cans only.
47. Consider installing a sprinkler system that would provide ultimate protection and could lower your insurance premium.
48. Make sure everyone can clearly hear the sound of your smoke detectors from their bedrooms.
Once again…test and maintain your smoke detectors often. BECAUSE YOUR FAMILY’S SAFTEY DEPENDS ON IT.
Remember, 4000 people die every year from fire or smoke inhalation, and 20,000 are injured. Please do not become on of these statistics. Please keep these tips in mind and share them with loved ones.