Every time I drive past our local fire station, I’m reminded of the work that these brave men and women do, protecting our homes and our properties, as well as providing first-responder services to accidents and emergencies that, unfortunately, happen around the clock. I always buy a ticket or twelve to the annual firefighter’s fundraising balls, concerts and circuses… it’s the least I can do to support our firefighters and I know many of you join me in these efforts. Thank you. Talk to any of these courageous public servants, though, and they’ll tell you that the best thing you can do is to take steps so they don’t have to do their job…at least, not at your house. October is Fire Prevention Month. It’s the perfect time to take stock of and update your home’s safety standards.
– The easiest and most important thing you can do to protect your home from widespread fire damage is to install and maintain smoke alarms on every level of your home. Test batteries monthly, not twice yearly when the time changes! In addition to smoke alarms, consider installing a sprinkler system. When combined with working smoke alarms, home fire sprinklers greatly increase your chance of surviving a fire. Sprinklers are affordable and they can increase property value and lower insurance rates.
– Prevent electrical fires by NOT overloading circuits and extension cords. Don’t ever place cords or wires under carpets and ensure that cords fit properly into wall outlets. A loose connection can cause overheating and start a fire in minutes! Unplug appliances when they’re not in use and use surge protectors on electrical appliances, computers and entertainment consoles.
– Our clothes dryers create a serious fire threat if they are not properly maintained. Clean the lint filter every time you dry a load of clothing and make sure your exhaust duct is made of metal tubing and not plastic or foil. Clean the exhaust duct with a good quality dryer vent brush to prevent blockage and check for lint build-up behind the dryer at least twice a year.
– With the holiday’s approaching, take extra care with additional lighting in your home. Keep lights away from curtains (they are quick fire-starters!) and water sources which can cause cord damage and lead to sparking and fire.
– Once monthly, make a quick visual inspection of all plugs, wiring and electronic equipment. If you see any evidence of overheating (dark soot marks or frayed wires), unplug the appliance/equipment immediately and repair or replace it. Try to keep televisions, computers and other appliances away from fabric and windows.
Even with careful inspection and attention, disasters do happen. Make a plan with your family and practice using safe escape routes from every room in your home. Practice staying low to the floor and checking hot doors with the back of your hand. Find a spot outside your home (close enough to get to easily, but far enough from the home to be safe) and designate it as your meeting spot. I hope, and our trusty firefighters hope, that you never need to use this plan, but when it comes to fire safety, a bit of practice and preparedness can make all the difference.