Friday, 24 January 2014

Home Safety Campaign

In the United States, every year about 2,500 people die in home fires.

Home heating fuels are costly. This high cost has caused many Americans to look for alternate sources of energy for home heating. The past few years have seen an increase in the sales of wood-burning stoves and space heaters. Fireplaces have also become common and this means burning wood and man-made logs.

These heating methods, though acceptable, are a major cause for residential fires. It is reported that most fire victims die from smoke or toxic gases and not from burns. This data led safety experts to believe that this huge fire death toll could be greatly reduced if people knew more about how fires burn and what’s in the smoke they create.

However much we dismiss it, the fact that home fires are most common in winter looms over the head all the time. Numerous researches have paved the way to the development of various campaigns and programs to help reduce damage and loss of life in the home fires.

In 2008, the Alberta government rolled out a campaign after it accepted recommendations from the then recently established High-Intensity Residential Fires (HIRF) Working Group.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standard 1710 was created for benefits in the same line.

The main theme of these agencies was public education and the development of awareness campaigns that focus on what people require to do in those few minutes before the fire department reaches the spot. These are the most crucial moments that could mean the difference between life and death.

People were educated through the television and the Internet. Video clips broad-casted on television and announcements on the radio were most effective. This campaign also increased personal responsibility for fire safety among the people. They understood prevention of fires is most important. Next came detection of smoke and fire, and the importance of working smoke alarms; and finally, moving to safety, which was taught through fire escape plan.

The following fire safety tips can help you maintain a fire safe home this winter.

If you are using a kerosene heater, you need to
  • Ensure that the kerosene heater is legal in your area.
  • Make sure that the heater is in good working condition.
  • Refrain from using fuel burning appliances when there is inadequate room ventilation. There needs to be room to let the fumes out.
  • Keep kerosene stored in approved metal containers, outside of the house.

If you are using wood stoves and fireplaces, you need to
  • Make sure that the fireplace or stove is installed properly.
  • Wood stoves need to be of good quality, have a solid design and construction, and should be laboratory tested.
  • The chimney needs to be inspected and cleaned annually.
  • Always place a glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace. This will prevent embers from flying out and burn something.
  • Burn the stove twice a day for 15-30 minutes. This will reduce the amount of creosote buildup.

If you are using furnace heating, you need to
  • Ensure your furnace is inspected to prove its safe working condition.
  • Make sure that all furnace controls and emergency shutoffs work properly.
  • Do not try to repair the furnace yourself, leave it to qualified specialists.
  • Check the pipe seams and flue pipes. They should have proper supports and free of holes and cracks.
  • Keep trash and combustible items far away from the heating system.

Finally, you need to be sure that you have a smoke alarm that works. Clean it on a monthly basis to check there are no hindrances.

Practice the evacuation plan with your family. Contact your local fire department if you have any questions on home fire safety.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Freeze the Winter Fires

Winter is a time to be ‘fire smart.’ Home fires occur in winter often. Surprising, isn’t it? This is the time when you and your family are most vulnerable as it is only fire for cooking that you think about in this season. It is at this time of the year that most homes use unsafe heat sources or slip following fire safety rules while using candles in the kitchen.

The United State Fire Administration (USFA) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) have rolled out their analysis, which says that half of all home fires occur in the month of December, January and February. Let’s take a look at the common causes of fires at home.
    1. Residential properties have reported carbon monoxide incidents during the winter months. 2006-2010, municipal fire departments have received calls for an annual average of 72,000 carbon monoxide incidents. These calls have been common during the early evening hours.
    2. Electricity, our basic needs, is another source of fire. The only way we can keep our home safe from electrical hazards is by taking good care of appliances. Using all electrical equipment properly and according to the instructions goes a long way in preventing home fires.
    3. Heating appliances are one of the leading causes of home fires in winter months. Heaters can burst and cause a fire if left on for very long.
    4. Cooking has been reported to have caused about 156,300 home structure fires in 2011. The U.S. fire departments has reported that cooking has caused 43% of the home fires, 38% of home fire injuries, 16% of home fire deaths, and 12% of damage to property. NFPA discourages using outdoor gas-fueled turkey fryers. These fryers need a lot of oil to immerse the turkey while cooking. They use a substantial quantity of cooking oil at extremely high cooking temperatures and this pose danger of hot oil being released at some point during the cooking process. This hot oil can catch fire immediately.
    5. Candles are dangerous too. The top three days when home candle fires have been reported are Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year's Day. Among the total calls for fires attended by the U.S. fire department on an annual average, 10,630 home structure fires have been caused by candles.
    6. Winter holiday season also means decorations made of paper and other inflammable materials. There are fires and injuries associated with holiday decorating materials during this season. The US fire department says that there have been 230 home structure fires that started with Christmas trees between 2007 and 2011. Decorative lights on line voltage have been the cause for the most of these fires and resulted in 12% of these incidents. Electrical failures or malfunctions were the main factors in most of them. All these have involved holiday or decorative lights. On an average, there has been one of every 40 reported home structure Christmas tree fires that have resulted in a death.
We can prevent these fires easily with a little precaution and care.  It is good to have a fireplace screen or heat tempered glass in front of the fireplace. Keeping children at least 10 feet away from the cooking fire is another good way to prevent injuries. Ensuring that portable heaters can automatically shut off is a good way of avoiding heater appliance fires. Testing the carbon monoxide alarms to ensure that they are working fine is a must in every winter.

Stay Tuned! We will be back with more tips to prevent domestic winter fires.