Sunday, October 5, 2008

National Fire Prevention Week - Prevent Home Fires

National Fire Prevention Week will be observed from October 5th through the 11th. This year’s theme is "Prevent Home Fires." Each year, fire departments across the country respond to over 400,000 residential fires. Annually more than 3500 people die from fire in their own homes. In many cases, some simple steps may have prevented the fire from starting or allowed the victims to escape. Each of us would benefit from checking our own homes for fire hazards and making sure that everyone in the residence knows what to do in case of fire.

By the way, did you know that National Fire Prevention Week was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871?

The most common causes of home fires result from cooking, heating, electrical malfunction, smoking materials and candles. Each of these activities carries with it a risk of fire, but that risk can be greatly lessened if you follow some common sense safety tips.

1. Purchase a personal home fire extinguisher. That $15 - $40 investment could save your home, your mementos or your life.

2. Keep fresh batteries in your smoke alarms.It's recommended you change them every 6 months and most people find the twice-a-year-time-change to be a good reminder.

3. Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking. Many cooking fires start from unattended and forgotten cooking.

4. Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them inspected and cleaned annually by a qualified professional.

5. If you smoke, smoke outside.

6. Keep things that can burn (like that blouse or shirt you'd like to dry by draping it over a lamp shade) away from light bulbs, light fixtures and lamps. For any suspected electrical problems, call a qualified electrician or at the least shut the circuit breaker off to that problem area until you can have an electrician look it over.

7. Use flashlights during emergencies, not candles. Blow out candles when leaving the room and keep them away from other things that can burn (like drapes, tablecloths, clothes, etc.).

8. Watch young children carefully, especially around stoves, ovens or if you have matches or lighters in the house. Little ones love to copy mommy and daddy and they can be deceptively fast.

Thankfully my wife and our children have never been involved in a house fire. But when I was a child my father was alone one weekend at a trailer we had in Key Largo and fell asleep in the bedroom while smoking. Friends of ours in a trailer nearby awoke to see our trailer on fire and were able to get my dad out safely before the entire place was consumed by flames. My father was extremely fortunate, but a lot of folks aren't.

Also keep in mind that, as the winter months and holidays get closer, the rates of fire and fire related deaths increase because of use of heaters and holiday lights. Take a little time to ensure that you and your family follow the safety tips above and let's do all we can to Prevent Home Fires.

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