National Fire Safety Prevention Week begins Sunday. (October 7-13, 2012)
Its Fire Prevention Week. Have two ways out!
Commemorating a conflagration
Fire Prevention Week was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, the tragic 1871 conflagration that killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres. The fire began on October 8, but continued into and did most of its damage on October 9, 1871.
According to popular legend, the fire broke out after a cow – belonging to Mrs. Catherine O’Leary – kicked over a lamp, setting first the barn, then the whole city on fire. Chances are you’ve heard some version of this story yourself; people have been blaming the Great Chicago Fire on the cow and Mrs. O’Leary, for more than 130 years. But recent research by Chicago historian Robert Cromie has helped to debunk this version of events.
The ‘Moo’ myth
Like any good story, the ‘case of the cow’ has some truth to it. The great fire almost certainly started near the barn where Mrs. O’Leary kept her five milking cows. But there is no proof that O’Leary was in the barn when the fire broke out – or that a jumpy cow sparked the blaze. Mrs. O’Leary herself swore that she’d been in bed early that night, and that the cows were also tucked in for the evening.
But if a cow wasn’t to blame for the huge fire, what was? Over the years, journalists and historians have offered plenty of theories. Some blamed the blaze on a couple of neighborhood boys who were near the barn sneaking cigarettes. Others believed that a neighbor of the O’Leary’s may have started the fire. Some people have speculated that a fiery meteorite may have fallen to earth on October 8, starting several fires that day – in Michigan and Wisconsin, as well as in Chicago.
In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson issued the first National Fire Prevention Day proclamation, and since 1922, Fire Prevention Week has been observed on the Sunday through Saturday period in which October 9 falls. According to the National Archives and Records Administration’s Library Information Center, Fire Prevention Week is the longest running public health and safety observance on record. The President of the United States has signed a proclamation proclaiming a national observance during that week every year since 1925.
In the Kitchen
Never leave your cooking unattended. Always keep your stove company. Especially if youre frying somethingthats when things can cross the line in mere seconds.
Keep it clean. Keep stove and counter surfaces free of clutter, grease, and especially flammable objects like hairspray, bug spray, or air freshener. In case of an emergency youll be able to react faster given the freedom of space.
Set a timer. Don’t just rely on your brain; we’re human, and we get distracted. A timer can remind you to switch off the burner or oven, saving your food and possibly your house from being burnt.
In case of a pan fire, control the fire by:
- Covering the pan with a lid or a bigger upturned pan.
- Turn the heat off.
- Spray the pot with a fire extinguisher.
- If you don’t have a fire extinguisher handy, douse the burning oil with baking soda.
- Never run with a pan fire. You run the risk of spreading the fire further when the oil drips.
- Never throw water on the panit will splatter the oil and spread the fire, possibly burning you.
- Never throw sugar or flour on a grease fire. Flour might look like baking soda, but it’s not, so it won’t react similarly! One cup of either of these baking products contains the explosive potential of two sticks of dynamite.
Wear tight clothes. Billowing sleeves or hanging accessories above a lit stove can spell disaster.
Install a smoke detector in the kitchen.
In The Laundry Room
The proper dryer duct should vent directly outdoorsnever to a room inside the house, as the air discharge can contain a combination of combustible gases.
Avoid plastic duct work, which is more easily ignited or melted; opt for a hard metal duct (with as few bends as possible) from the dryer to the exterior of your home. You’ll breathe more easily when you load your laundry.
Keep the duct free of lint to help reduce the chance of fire spreading from the dryer to the vent. Clean the lint trap after every use. A professional should also help you periodically dismantle the dryer to clean between the dryer drum and the heat element.
Install a smoke detector nearby.
By Hearth and Candlelight
Never leave fire unattended. Candles may be small, and the flames they produce may be even smaller, but it takes just a few breaths for an upturned candle to create an inferno.
Use a smart surface. Always place candles on a non-flammable surface, and keep them away from paper, curtains, and other items that could be easily ignited.
Use a screen in front of the hearthmake sure it’s large and heavy enough to encompass the entire opening and to stop any stray logs from rolling out of the fireplace.
Perform regular check-ups. Chimneys and woodstoves require annual (and thorough!) cleaning, and monthly inspection in case of obstructions or damage.
Never burn paper, trash, or green wood; apart from being highly flammable, scraps of burning paper or trash may actually drift up through the chimney or pipe and land onand light upyour roof.
Extinguish the fire once you want to move away from it and cool the ashes. Ensure that the ashes are then harmlessly sealed away in a metal container outside the home.
More Men Than
Hazardous ELECTRICS & APPLIANCES
Be a smart shopper. Buy electrical products evaluated by the nationally recognized laboratory (i.e. UL).
Replace all frayed wires: worn, old, or damaged appliance cords belong in the dumpster and not shoved under the rug.
Use three-prong plugs in three-slot outlets, and two-slot plug into two-slot outlets. Make sure your kids know this, too.
Portable space heaters heaters must be kept four feet or more away from combustible surfaces and objects.
- Ensure that your heater has a thermostat control mechanism (so it automatically switches off if it falls over!).
- Never overheat it, and always use it in a well-ventilated room.
- If it’s a kerosene heater, clear K-1 kerosene should be the only thing you’re feeding it.
Smoke Alarms: A Necessity, Not an Option
Invest in a few smoke detectors if you haven’t already. As the only household item that’s on the alert 24/7 against the threat of a fire, smoke detectors save lives every dayand they could save yours.
Install dual sensor smoke alarms; make sure they contain both ionization and photoelectric smoke sensors.
Spread them out on every story of your home, and definitely install them in the kitchen, laundry room, and every bedroom.
Test your smoke detectors once a month.
Replace the batteries at least once a year (possible exception: non-replaceable 10-year lithium batteries; still, be sure to test them); many manufacturers also encourage a replacement of the smoke detectors after a decade.
Never disable a smoke alarm, including when you’re cooking. Open a window, wave a dishtowel to clear the air, and let it blast its warning that you might have just overcooked your meal.
Smoke alarms for the disabled.
- Audible alarms are available for the visually impaired (the sound of the alarm shouldn’t be a monotone; a small pause of silence helps this person hear voices or other critical sounds in the surrounding environment).
- Visual alarms (with a flashing light or vibrating pad) are available for the hearing impaired.
- For more vulnerable residents, there are also smoke alarms with outdoor strobe lights (to alert the neighbors) and emergency systems for summoning help.
Install an automatic fire sprinkler indoors.
Smokers Pose an Additional Danger
Keep the indoors a no-smoking zone. If you must smoke, smoke outdoors; too many home fires begin inside the home, with smoking materials as the catalyst.
Be alert. Don’t snooze and smoke. If you’re feeling the slightest bit drowsy (due to sleep deprivation, medication, alcohol, or any other reason), put out your fire immediately.
Snuff them out. Extinguish the cigarette in a sand-filled can, or drown cigarette butts and ashes in water.
Never throw away hot cigarette butts or ashes without attending to them properly.
Never smoke where oxygen is being used; for instance, a family member might be using home oxygen therapy, but even if the oxygen is turned off, the building is much more vulnerable. Oxygen can be explosive and will only serve to fan the flames.
Establishing an Evacuation Plan: Fire Exits in the Home
Draw up an escape plan. This is a critical proactive step; it’s easier to follow up on something we’ve visualized and practiced before, particularly when we need to repeat it during a chaotic emergency.
- Plan at least two escape routes; from every roomparticularly the bedrooms, where you’re most likely to be caught unaware, relaxed, and/or asleep.
- Purchase fire ladders; for the upper stories: ensure that these ladders are collapsible and have been evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory (i.e. UL).
- Check windows; to make sure that the glass isn’t stuck and that screens can be swiftly removed.
Discuss the escape routes with your family; every single member of the household should know the basic safety procedures: Stop, Drop, and Roll; bring home those school fire-drill mantras.
Practice; can you feel your way out of the house with your eyes closed, or in the dark? Do you know the quickest way to crawl out? Do you know the low windows from which you could jump? Do you instinctively use the back of your hand to feel a door’s heat, and do you remain crouched down as close to the floor as possible?
Stay Fire Smart! Dont Get Burned
During National Fire Prevention Week, attention is focused on promoting fire safety and prevention, however we should practice fire safety all year long. Many potential fire hazards go undetected because people simply do not take steps to fireproof their home.
Fires can happen anywhere at any time.
Its human nature to think bad things only happen to “the other person,” but the fact is that bad things can happen to good people. Everyone thinks they’ll never have a fire, but the figures tell a different story. In fact, the chances are that you will experience at least one home fire in your lifetime – a fire serious enough to call 911.
Simple things like testing the water before putting a child in the bath may sound like common sense. Wearing short or close-fitting sleeves when cooking on the stovetop may show foresight. This and other simple actions may be all it takes to prevent devastating burns. Many bedroom fires are caused by misuse or poor maintenance of electrical devices, careless use of candles, smoking in bed, and children playing with matches and lighters.
Most potential hazards can be addressed with a little common sense. For example, be sure to keep flammable items like bedding, clothes and curtains at least three feet away from portable heaters or lit candles, and never smoke in bed. Also, items like appliances or electric blankets should not be operated if they have frayed power cords, and electrical outlets should never be overloaded.
Each year more than 3,600 Americans die in fires – the worst fire record in the modern, industrialized world. About two-thirds of these fire-related deaths happen at home, and many of them during the night while victims sleep. Those statistics are sobering and Plateau wants all employees to know they can help protect themselves and their loved ones from fire with 10 easy steps.
- Make sure everyone in the family understands the dangers of fire. Remember to stay low below door knob level when getting out of the smoke. If you have a towel/washcloth to cover your face and breath through it should help with some smoke inhalation. Additionally, Use the back of your hand to feel if the door knobs are hot indicating fire burning on the other side.
- DONT PLAY WITH MATCHES! Teach kids that matches, lighters, lighter fluid, gasoline and candles are tools, not toys. If you suspect that a child is playing with fire, check under beds and in closets for telltale signs like burned matches. Matches and lighters should be stored in a secure drawer.
- Limit the use of extension cords; make sure the cord can carry the power load it is being used with.
- Develop a home fire escape plan; let your kids help to identify two ways to escape from each room.
- Practice your fire escape plan; a good time is when you test your smoke detectors monthly.
- Change those smoke detector/CO2 batteries, remember Change your clocks, change your batteries (Nov 6th, 2011 Daylight Savings Ends).
- Avoid clutter in the home or office, keep fire escape exits clear. You dont want to have to navigate through cluttered halls when trying to escape an emergency.
- Portable heaters should be kept away from all combustible items and have a minimum 3 feet clearance when in use.
- Never store combustibles near hot water heaters or in a furnace room.
- Have an ABC type fire extinguisher charged, serviceable and in an easy access area (preferably the kitchen).
Many fires start in the kitchen, usually due to distraction. Stove top cooking is a serious activity and requires full attention. Don’t put something on the stove and leave to watch television. Keep dish towels, pot holders and decorations at least a foot away from the stovetop. Even though they may not be on the burner, radiated heat can cause them to ignite. Keep an oversized pot lid available. Should a fire occur in the cooking pot, place the lid over the pot, turn off the heat, and don’t remove the lid for at least 15 minutes.
If a fire does occur and your clothing happens to catch fire, you should remember the “Stop, Drop, and Roll” technique. This could prevent serious burns to you or a family member.
Fire safety is not difficult. It only requires awareness and common sense to keep families and homes safe from fire. Please remember to make sure your cigarettes are fully extinguished before leaving the area. By taking preventive measures can keep a family from becoming a fire statistic.
Information provided by the NFPA. Complianceandsafety.com (Matt P) and firepreventionweek.org
Today’s post comes to us courtesy of Ken Oswald, safety manager for Plateau