Simple Steps to Help Keep You From Becoming A Fire Statistic

Daylight savings time ends on the first Sunday of November… November 4 this year. While I’m a fan of ‘gaining’ an extra hour of sleep, having it get dark an hour earlier is not such a great thing. Couple that with the typical stormy November weather and the sunny evenings on the deck in August begin to fade from memory.

Speaking of memory, the change in time actually helps remind us to do something very important… CHANGE OUR SMOKE ALARM BATTERIES! The most important thing you can do to keep from being injured or killed in a structure fire – other than not smoking in bed late at night – is to make certain you get an early warning. Smoke alarms and Carbon Monoxide alarms provide that warning, but if they are not installed or not working properly your chances of being injured or killed by a fire in your home increases dramatically.

Nobody expects to have a fire in their home, but according to the National Fire Protection Association there were 370,000 structure fires in 2011, causing 13,910 injuries and 2,520 deaths. The majority of fires start in the kitchen, but kitchen fires rarely kill people. Only 4% of fires start in the living room, family room, or den, but 24% of deaths are caused by fire in these locations. 7% of fires start in bedrooms, but those fires account for 25% of the deaths that occur. Clearly, being asleep when a fire starts is life-threatening; alarms are meant to WAKE YOU UP.

In general, homes should have at least one smoke detector on every level of the home, regardless of whether there are bedrooms on each level. Every bedroom should have its own smoke detector, and if you sleep with the door closed there should be a smoke detector outside of each sleeping area.

This year the State of Washington began requiring Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors in every home before it can be sold. There needs to be at least one on each floor and there must be one outside of each sleeping area.

Both smoke and CO detectors should be located according to the instructions included with the specific unit. In general, detectors should not be within 15-20 feet of any furnace or fuel burning heat source and should not be placed in or near humid areas such as bathrooms. They should not be placed in areas where they will be damaged by children or pets or concealed behind curtains or other obstructions, or where they will be in direct sunlight or in areas subject to temperature extremes. Alarms may not function as designed if installed near ceiling fans, heat vents, air conditioners, fresh air returns, or open windows, or within 4″ (preferably 6” – 12”) of any intersecting wall or ceiling. And smoke detectors should be replaced at least every ten years and CO detectors replaced every 5 years.

There are many other things you can do to protect yourself from becoming a fire statistic… have escape plans from every room, don’t overload electrical circuits or run a bunch of extension cords, don’t place flammable materials adjacent to heat sources, etc., etc. But the single most important thing you can do to ensure you’re around in the spring to move the clock forward an hour is to maintain your early warning alarms.

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