Over the past year, I have learned about several experiences with people I care about having house fires. Please be very careful. When you read this letter, please make yourself a note to change the batteries in your fire detectors. Now is the time for us all to check and make sure that we inspect our homes for fire hazards before winter arrives. You may even need to hire someone to help you especially if your house is older. Have someone check the electrical wiring, plumbing, heating and air conditioning to make sure you are keeping you and your family safe from possible harm. Inspecting hazards in your home should be second nature but sometimes we just forget to check or we just make mistakes that impact our lives.
According to the National Fire Protection Association in 2010, cooking was involved in an estimated 156,400 home structure fires that were reported to U.S. fire departments. These fires caused 420 deaths, 5,310 injuries and $993 million in direct property damage. Cooking caused 44% of reported home fires, 16% of home fire deaths, 40% of home fire injuries, and 15% of the direct property damage in 2010.
Other issues to look out for that may cause fires:
• Candles The top five days for home candle fires are Christmas, Christmas Eve, New Year’s Day, Halloween and December 23.
• Electrical Safety in the home with circuit interrupters
• Heating The peak months for home heating fires are December, January and February.
• Smoking Smoking materials (i.e., cigarettes, cigars, pipes, etc.) are the leading cause of fire deaths in the United States.
• Dryers and washing machines The leading cause of home clothes dryer and washer fires is failure to clean them.
• Medical oxygen Portable medical oxygen in the home has grown over the past decade.
• Portable generators The most common dangers with portable generators are carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, electrical shock, and fire hazards.
• Scalds Scald burns can be caused by any hot liquid, fluid, or vapor, including hot tap water, overheated beverages, steam, and hot oil.
• Portable fireplaces The fuel, device and open flame from these products can be dangerous.
I really did not think about how many I knew that had been affected by fire until I read the Mid-Michigan American Red Cross' press release on fire prevention advice issues fire prevention advice.
Below is what I received:
The biggest disaster threat to American families isn’t floods, hurricanes or tornadoes; it’s fire. The American Red Cross responds to a disaster every eight minutes and nearly all of these are home fires.
The Mid-Michigan Chapter responded to 94 home and apartment fires from July 1, 2012 - June 30, 2013. Fire is everyone’s fight and the Red Cross urges people to know what steps they can take to help prevent
“Home fires are a common and deadly threat because they happen so quickly,” said Catherine Reed, Emergency Service Program Manager for the Mid-Michigan Red Cross. “We urge everyone to become aware of what they should do to prevent a fire in their home.”
According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), there are almost 365,000 residential fires reported in the U.S. every year. These fires cause more than $6 billion in property loss. While the frequency of fire deaths has steadily decreased over the past ten years due to increased awareness and safety measures, more than 2,400 Americans still die every year in home fires.
Fortunately, most home fires can be prevented. Homeowners should check for items that can be hazardous such as candles and space heaters – common items that can turn dangerous very quickly.
To help avoid a fire in the home, there are steps someone can take now:
• Keep items that can catch on fire at least three feet away from anything that gets hot, such as sources of heat or stoves.
• Never smoke in bed.
• Turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to sleep.
SMOKE ALARMS SAVE LIVES Install smoke alarms on every level of the home and outside each sleeping area. Put a smoke alarm inside every bedroom. Because smoke rises, put the alarms on the ceiling or high on the wall. Test the smoke alarms regularly. Install new batteries every year. Get new smoke alarms every ten years.
MAKE A PLAN The Red Cross recommends that households develop a fire escape plan and practice it at least twice a year with everyone who lives in the home. People should know two ways to escape from every room and designate a safe place to meet outside the home in case of a fire.
Other safety steps include:
• Follow the escape plan in case of fire. Get out, stay out, and call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.
• Install smoke alarms on every level of the house and inside bedrooms.
• Replace batteries in smoke alarms at least once a year. Test each alarm monthly by pushing the test button.
Some of this information may be second nature but for some it is not. Take care of yourself and pass this information on to a neighbor.
This was printed in the October 20, 2013 - November 2, 2013 Edition