[Howling Hill steps on her soapbox and clears throat]
Generally signs are put up on you local fire station denoting Fire Prevention Week. Fire Department members are usually planning all kinds of events including fundraisers, public awareness events, school activities, etc.
Members of fire departments generally grew up in the area you live. Many wear a variety of hats in your communities. They often serve as members of other town services such as Selectmen, Water Commissioner, Department of Public Works. They also have other interests such as SCUBA diving, hiking, rock climbing etc. so they are the ones you want around when you hurt yourself on a trail or in the water. Find out what resources are available in your area: Haz Mat, high angle rescue and water teams are there for your safety. Use their skills and knowledge! That’s what they are there for! Almost every firefighter I know be they volunteer, paid on call, or full time has something else they do for work: electrician, plumber, contractor, farmer (especially in this area!), painter, webmistress and photographer (me =), printing, oil burner maintenance, etc. and as I said, Haz Mat (specialists in chemicals!) high angle and water rescue. You have no idea how many resources are in your local department.
The purpose of Fire Prevention Week is in the name: to prevent home fires. All kinds of fires such as furnace, cooking, electrical, illegal. This years focus on the prevention of furnace fires is especially important. With the cost of heating oil through the roof individuals are apt to try and install their own wood stoves (have it done professionally so you don’t affixiate yourself and family), forgo having their furnaces cleaned (have it done professionally. It’ll make your furnace run cleaner and more efficiently), or using propane/electrical space heaters. Fire Prevention Week is also designed to spark* your brains into thinking about escape plans and fire drills for your home. Yes, FOR YOUR HOME!
We all remember the fire drills from school: shut doors and windows, turn off lights, move calmly in a single file to the nearest exit and meet at a designated location. I’m willing to bet, however, you haven’t done this with your family. Do you know a route and alternative route out of your home in case of a fire? This includes having ladders if you can’t get down the hall to the door if your bedroom is on the second floor or in the basement, or your house is on a hill. What about a designated meeting spot: does your family have one? Whose responsibility it is to get the kids, dog, cat, and fish? Don’t delay leaving your home if it’s on fire or there’s smoke to rescue you loved ones (I know that sounds awful), let the firefighters do that. They have masks and air supplies (no, not Air Supply) in which they have a better chance of getting Fido, Fluffy, and Fiona out of the house than you. Don’t become a victim!
The best way to protect your family is fire detectors! I cannot express to you how important to life safety they are. Some important points about fire detectors:
- Check the batteries at least once a month. Press the button and listen to the squeal for a couple seconds. Put them BACK after you take them out because you burnt the toast again.
- Changed the batteries the same time you change your clocks in the spring and fall.
- Location! Location! Location! Fire detectors should be in each bedroom, the hallway, kitchen, laundry room (if you have one), garage, basement and attic. Lives are lost because people don’t think to put detectors in the basement or attic despite fires in those locations frequently. Undetected fires will smolder and cause caustic fumes. And it’s the fumes and smoke which kill human and animal not fire. Believe me when I say you’re long dead or at least incapacitated by the time the fire reaches you.
Carbon Monoxide detectors:
- CO detectors should be near the floor. Carbon Monoxide is heavier than oxygen so it sinks to the bottom. If the detector is on the ceiling you’re dead by the time it goes off. Or severely ill.
- Combo fire/CO detectors are fine so long as you put the unit near the floor. Smoke will rise and pass by the detector setting it off so it’s ok to have a fire detector near the floor just make sure you have one on the ceiling too.
- Place detectors in the basement near your furnace, in your garage, and near your stove. Basically you want a CO detector near any area you use gas or gas products.
If you have a barn make sure you put detectors in your barn to warn you of CO and fire. Check them as often, as you would your home detectors. And remember to change the batteries.