Fire doesn't talk. Make friends with a smoke detector.
"I've been there. I have seen the ruin and felt the regret. The looks, the shock, the confusion and all the questions, I've been there. The hours sifting through the ash and debris accompanied by hugs and tears while holding the only picture not touched, I've been there. The feeling of everything happening in slow motion and the voices muted by the sirens and urgency, I've been there. The moment we realized there was no warning and no means to protect what we worked so hard for, I've been there. The moment I wished I could turn back the time and be prepared, I've been there."
What you are reading are the words of a victim of one of the most unimaginable events that could happen in someone's life. You are reading the pain and the toll of losing a home due to fire. Readers, as I write this I come to you with the same words, I've been there. I have seen houses burnt to the ground with no belongings left other than a teddy bear or a garment of clothing. I have been on scene for trailer fires where the owner was trapped and fell victim to smoke, heat and toxic gases. I have also heard the infamous message come across the radio, "there was no working smoke or carbon monoxide detectors."
Every October the NFPA (National Fire Protection Agency) begs people to be prepared. I say beg because protecting your house and the precious lives in it is such an inexpensive and easy thing to do. You see approximately two thirds of house hold fire related deaths occur in homes with no working smoke alarms or alarms that had bad or missing batteries. I want to stress too that just buying smoke alarms may not cut it. What do I mean by this? Well let's take this for example. Many of the smoke alarms you find on the bottom shelf of a store may only read about 40% of the particles in the air. Heat detectors for example, one of the oldest forms of protection take the longest to warn people of a fire. With these type of detectors it may be too little too late. In any event, we all have to do our homework and really research what will work the best in our homes. Do we have to spend a little more to protect our homes? No doubt. Do we have to read the back of any alarm we buy to make sure it's legit, that it will warn us and where to install it? Of course! Do we have to add fire extinguishers to our list of must haves in our homes? Yes, yes and yes!
Today, ladies and gentleman, I have compiled a list of must haves and must do's when you are ready to protect your home. Just doing one thing can help get the process going.
1. Do a fire hazard analysis. Find how many alarms and extinguishers you will need, and where to have them.
2. Do your research and learn about the difference between the different types of alarms.
b. Photo electric
c. Combo ionizing/photo electric
d. Combo smoke and CO
3. Do not just place your detectors anywhere. Most detectors require to be ceiling mounted and within so many feet of bedrooms and hallways. Again read, read, read!
4. Be prepared when cooking. For grease fires turn off the burner and cover the fire with a lid and gloved hand. Also, a kitchen fire extinguisher is recommended.
5. For multi-story dwellings really consider a portable fire escape ladder in the event the stairs are not usable. Also have an escape plan and practice it! Don't forget, cleaner cooler air is always at the floor.
6. Clean up and move combustibles from heat sources like hot water tanks, furnaces, space heaters and fire places. Stuff can tend to accumulate and this can increase fire load.
7. Dryer fires are very common. Keep a clean vent and empty your lint tramp every use. Also consider hard piping your dryer vent to allow for lint to freely move.
8. Do not over load your electrical. Most outlets are rated 15-20 amps. Old wiring and old heaters do not work well together. Electrical fires account for one the biggest causes of house fires.
9. If your alarms are chirping it's time to change the battery. Don't wait till the next day, do it now!
10. Lastly be proactive not reactive. Start planning today and you can be safe for tomorrow.
In this world of fast paced days and schedules that just never seem to end, we have to realize something - all of that will mean nothing if you are standing at your street and watching your life burn up. If it only took one hour of your time to protect a lifetime would you do it? If you said yes then get on the move! If you have any concerns on how to protect your home from fire please reach out to your local fire departments. In many cases they will do a walkthrough of your home and recommend what you need. Lastly, don't skimp out on detectors. Invest in good working detectors for both smoke and CO. Many today will talk with other detectors in your home and phone alerting you faster and more efficiently!
Until next time Dispatch readers, keep your guard up and your accidents down!