Fire Prevention

Fire Safety Information from the United States Fire Administration

Focus on Fire Safety: Smoke Alarms
Winter Fire Safety

If you have any fire safety questions or concerns please contact the fire safety committee at or by calling the station at 653-1600. Leave a message and we will return your call as soon as possible.

To all of our elderly residence. Fire Department Mount Joy would be more than happy to assist you in checking your smoke detector. If this is the case please feel free to contact us.

Thank you for taking time to read our fire safety message have a wonderful year. As always please be fire safe.

Fire Safety Committee

Home Fire Safety

Every year thousands of people die from fires in the home. Fire kills an estimated 4,000 Americans every year. Another 30,000 people are seriously injured by fire each year. Property damage from fire costs us at least $11.2 billion yearly. Most fire victims feel that fire would "never happen to them."

Although we like to feel safe at home, about two-thirds of our nation's fire deaths happen in the victim's own home. The home is where we are at the greatest risk and where we must take the most precautions. Most deaths occur from inhaling smoke or poisonous gases, not from the flames.

Most fatal fires occur in residential buildings between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. when occupants are more likely to be asleep. More than 90 percent of fire deaths in buildings occur in residential dwellings.


Additional Topics

Smoke Detectors
Fire Escape Plan
Home Safety Inspection
Fire Safety for Seniors
Safety with Matches and Lighters
Fire Safety while Traveling, Camping and Outdoors
Carbon Monoxide
Fire Places and Chimneys
Fire Drills
Safety Tips

Smoke Detectors

Types| Selection | Installation | Maintenance

Smoke detectors are devices that are mounted on the wall or ceiling and automatically sound a warning when they sense smoke or other products of combustion. When people are warned early enough about a fire, they can escape before it spreads. Prices start at about $6 and up.

A Johns Hopkins University study, funded by the United States Fire Administration, found that 75 percent of residential fire deaths and 84 percent of residential fire injuries could have been prevented by smoke detectors.

  1. For minimum protection, install a smoke detector outside of each bedroom or sleeping area in your home. Keep your bedroom doors closed while you are asleep. Better, install detectors on every level of your home.
  2. Keep your smoke detectors properly maintained. Test them once a month to ensure that the detectors are working properly. Every Spring and Fall when you change your clocks, remember to change your smoke detector batteries. Use only the type of batteries recommended on the detector.
  3. If your smoke detector sounds an alarm when no smoke is present, it may be defective or it might have a low battery. If smoke from cooking materials causes the detector to sound an alarm, do not remove the batteries or disconnect the power source. Simply fan the smoke away from the detector until the alarm stops. If this happens frequently, it may be necessary to relocate the detector or install a different type of detector.
  4. Develop an escape plan and review the plan with all members of the family frequently. Be aware that children and elderly people may need special assistance should a fire occur. Establish a meeting place outside the house for all members of the family to ensure that everyone gets out safely. When fire occurs, get out of the house and use a neighbor's telephone to notify the Fire Department.

The Mount Joy Borough Fire Prevention Code requires all residential occupancies to have smoke detectors in all common hall areas. All newly constructed residential occupancies in Mount Joy Borough and those undergoing significant renovations must meet the CABO code. Basically this code requires smoke detectors in each bedroom, in the vicinity of every sleeping area and at least one on each floor including the basement. These detectors must be electrical with a battery back-up. They must also be inter-wired. For more information, contact the Mount Joy Borough Codes enforcement officer.

Fire Department Mount Joy recommends that every home have a smoke detector outside each sleeping area (inside as well if members of the household sleep with the door closed) and on every level of the home, including the basement. The National Fire Alarm code requires a smoke detector inside each sleeping area for new construction. On floors without bedrooms, detectors should be installed in or near living areas, such as dens, living rooms or family rooms. Smoke detectors are not recommended for kitchens.


There are two basic types of smoke detectors:

  1. Ionization detectors - Ionization detectors contain radioactive material that ionizes the air, making an electrical path. When smoke enters, the smoke molecules attach themselves to the ions. The change in electric current flow triggers the alarm. The radioactive material is called americium. It's a radioactive metallic element produced by bombardment of plutonium with high energy neutrons. The amount is very small and not harmful.
  2. Photo-electric detectors - These types of detectors contain a light source (usually a bulb) and a photocell, which is activated by light. Light from the bulb reflects off the smoke particles and is directed towards the photocell. The photocell then is activated to trigger the alarm.


When choosing a smoke detector, there are several things to consider. Think about which areas of the house you want to protect, where fire would be most dangerous, how many you will need, etc.

The safest bet is to have both kinds or a combination detector with a battery back up. Be sure to check for a testing laboratory label on the detector. It means that samples of that particular model have been tested under operating conditions. Check to see if it is easy to maintain and clean. Be sure bulbs and batteries are easy to purchase and convenient to install.


The placement of smoke detectors is very important. Sleeping areas need the most protection. One detector in a short hallway outside the bedroom area is usually adequate. Hallways longer than 30 feet should have one at each end. For maximum protection, install a detector in each bedroom.

Be sure to keep the detector away from fireplaces and wood stoves to avoid false alarms. Place smoke detectors at the top of each stairwell and at the end of each long hallway. Smoke rises easily through stairwells. If you should put a smoke detector in your kitchen, be sure to keep it away from cooking fumes or smoking areas.

Proper mounting of a smoke detector also is important. You can mount many detectors by yourself, but those connected to your household wiring should have their own separate circuit and be installed by a professional electrician. If you mount your detector on the ceiling, be sure to keep it at least 18 inches away from dead air space near walls and corners. If you mount it on the wall, place it six to 12 inches below the ceiling and away from corners. Keep them high because smoke rises.

Never place them any closer than three feet from an air register that might recirculate smoke. Don't place them near doorways or windows where drafts could impair the detector operation. Don't place them on an un-insulated exterior wall or ceiling. Temperature extremes can affect the batteries.


Keeping smoke detectors in good condition is easy. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions. Be sure to replace the batteries every year or as needed. Most models will make a chirping, popping or beeping sound when the battery is losing its charge. When this sound is heard, install a fresh battery, preferably an alkaline type.

For Smoke Detectors with lights, replace bulbs every three years or as needed. Keep extras handy. Check the smoke detector every 30 days by releasing smoke or pushing the test button. Clean the detector face and grill work often to remove dust and grease. Never paint a smoke detector as it will hamper its function. Check your detector if you've been away from home.

If you're looking for a novel gift for somebody, consider giving them a smoke detector. It's an interesting gift that can save lives and it shows that you care.

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Fire Escape Plan

Nobody expects a fire but it's very important to have a plan - to know what to do - just in case there is one.

Fire can happen anywhere: in your home, apartment or place of business. It can happen when traveling.

In case of a fire, what you don't know can hurt you. Keep in mind, fires don't always happen to someone else.


  1. HAVE A FIRE ESCAPE PLAN Have a family meeting to discuss what to do if there is a fire. Practice your plan. Work up to practicing when the family is asleep. Make sure everyone in your family including small children participates
  2. FIRE ESCAPE PLAN TIPS Plan two exits. Keep calm. Close the door. Don't go back.
  3. DECIDE ON A MEETING PLACE By deciding on a meeting place, you will know if everyone has gotten out safely.
  4. SEND THE ALARM Dial 911 to report a fire. Use the Fire Alarm Box if your building is equipped with a fire alarm.
  5. WALK QUICKLY, DON'T PANIC Feel the door on your way out with the back of your hand. If the door is hot, do not open. Close door behind you to slow the spread of fire.
  6. USE THE STAIRS Don't use the elevator. It may stop and trap you. Try to place one hand in contact with the wall. This may prevent you from getting lost.
  7. STAY LOW AND GO If there's smoke, escape by staying very low to the ground where air is cooler.
  8. OPEN WINDOW IF TRAPPED Open window at top to let out heat and smoke; and at the bottom to breathe. If you cannot get out, wave a sheet out the window.
  9. DON'T GO BACK Do not go back into a fire for anything! Your life is your MOST valuable possession.

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Home Safety Inspection

You CAN Improve Fire Safety In Your Home. Start by making a fire safety inspection of your home. Check your house or apartment room by room to see which of these fire hazards you can find. Then take action to correct them!


  • Piles of stored newspapers or other rubbish. Newspapers stored in a damp, warm place may ignite spontaneously.
  • Oily, greasy rags. If these must be stored, they should be kept in labeled, sealed, metal containers. Flammable liquids (varnish, paint remover, paint thinner, contact adhesives, cleaning fluids) stored near open flame or pilot lights and in anything other than labeled, sealed metal containers. Dispose of outdated or empty cans properly.
  • Overloaded outlets or extension cords.
  • Fuses of the wrong size.


  • Matches within easy reach of children.
  • Overloaded outlets or extension cords.
  • Curtains or towel racks close to the range.
  • Flammable liquids (cleaning fluids, contact adhesives, etc.) or aerosols stored near the range or other heat source. Remember, even a pilot light can set vapors on fire. Dispose of outdated or empty cans properly.
  • Worn or frayed appliance or extension cords.


  • Too small or too full ashtrays. Ashtrays should be large, deep, and emptied frequently, but only when all signs of heat and burning are gone.
  • Matches and lighters within reach of young children.
  • Worn or frayed extension cords or other electrical cords run under rugs and carpets or looped over nails or other sharp objects that could cause them to fray.
  • Insufficient air space around TV and stereo that could cause them to overheat and start a fire.
  • Curtains, furniture, papers near a space heater.
  • Overloaded outlets or extension cords.

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Fire Safety Tips for Seniors


  1. Smoke detectors provide valuable protection. Detectors double your chance of surviving fire in your home by providing early warning and valuable time for escape. Install smoke detectors and maintain them.
  2. If you cannot install a detector yourself, ask a relative, a friend, a neighbor or the fire department. They will help you locate the best spot for the detector and make sure that the detector is installed.
  3. At a minimum, you should have a detector immediately outside your sleeping area. The ideal spot is on the ceiling or high on the wall, out of corners where "dead air" space might not capture rising smoke and gases. Detectors also should be placed at the top of open stairways (or at the bottom of enclosed stairways). There should be a detector on every level of your home or apartment.
  4. Do not disable your detectors by removing batteries or disconnecting wires. Doing so could mean the difference between life and death.
  5. If your detector goes off because of cooking fumes or steam from the bathroom, you may need to move it or may need a different type of detector.
  6. Clean the detectors periodically to keep them free from dust and dirt. Test the batteries. Detectors connected to your house wiring should be tested regularly, too.
  7. Smoke detector batteries should be changed at least twice a year. Use your birthday or some other major holiday (begin\end Daylight Savings Time) as your twice annual "Battery Replacement Day".
  8. If your landlord or building management is responsible for smoke detectors where you live, call and ask when they last were tested, cleaned or replaced. If the detectors have not been attended to, insist that the party responsible act immediately. If they do not respond, call the Fire Department, your local Agency on Aging, or the Housing Authority. Smoke detectors are important protection to escape from a fire. You must have a smoke detector. Don't live without one!


  1. Whether or not you smoke, friends and relatives who visit your home may. It is important, in either case, to be careful with all smoking materials.
  2. Don't leave cigarettes, cigars or pipes unattended. put out all smoking materials before you walk away.
  3. Don't put ashtrays on the arms of sofas or chairs. The ashtray can be tipped easily, spilling hot ashes or burning cigarettes onto the carpet or furniture.
  4. Use large ashtrays with wide lips. While smaller ashtrays may be more attractive, they are not safe. Cigarettes can roll of the edge, and ashes can easily be blown around.
  5. Close a match box before striking, and hold it away from your body. Set your cigarette lighter on "low" to prevent burns.
  6. Empty all ashtrays into the toilet or metal container. Warm ashes dumped in waste cans can smolder for hours, then ignite surrounding trash. An option is to place the ashtray in the kitchen sink and fill with water. Let it remain overnight before disposing.
  7. NEVER, EVER smoke in bed. Make it a rule not to allow any smoking materials in bedrooms. Burning sheets blankets and other bedclothes create a fire from which escape is impossible. Toxic fumes from the smoke can kill. Don't smoke in bed.
  8. If you begin to feel drowsy while watching television or reading, extinguish your cigarette or cigar. Do it before it may be too late.
  9. If friends or relatives who smoke have visited, be sure to check on the floor and around chair cushions for ashes that may have been dropped accidentally.

Smoke detectors save lives - Don't take a chance!


  1. There are three essential items that should be kept by your bedside: a telephone, whistle, and your eyeglasses. You need your glasses to see how to escape from fire and avoid injury. The whistle serves two purposes: It lets people know where you are so that you can be rescued, and enables you to warn other family members of fire. Your first priority in fire is to get out of the building. Don't stop to call the Fire Department until you are safe outside. If you can not escape by the door, telephoning allows you to call for help while attempting to escape by your back up route. (e.g. a window, etc.)
  2. If you use a wheel chair or walker, check all the exit routes in advance to be sure you can get through the doorways. If not, map out escape routes that are acceptable, and discuss your escape plans with your family, the building manager or neighbors.
  3. If you have impairments that might make it more difficult for you to escape from fire, consider talking to your Fire Department and letting them know your special circumstances in advance.
  4. Plan your escape route. You should have a primary and a back-up route mapped out for each room. Practice getting out. It may seem foolish to do so, or unnecessary (of course you know how to find a front door), but when there is a fire or smoke, your reasoning and patterns may be affected by the emergency. If you have practiced escape routes, your memory and instinct will help you move in the right direction and in the right way. Check all the windows from which escape is planned. Can you open the window, or is it painted or nailed shut? Make sure your exits allow you to exit!


  • The kitchen is a high danger zone for fire, so be extra cautious with flame when cooking in the kitchen.
  • If you must leave the kitchen while you are cooking, turn off the burner. If you have something in the oven, check it every 15 minutes. Most kitchen fires occur because food is left unattended on the stove or in the oven. A "brief" departure from the kitchen to attend to other matters can easily turn into an extended time away. As a reminder to you, take a potholder, a cooking spoon, or other kitchen utensil with you when you leave the room. This object will help you remember that you have an unfinished task waiting in the kitchen.
  • Never cook with loose, dangling sleeves. Robes and other loose fitting garments can ignite easily. This is a major cause of serious burns for senior citizens. Don't take chances !


  1. Regularly inspect your extension cords for fraying, exposed wires or loose plugs. They are not intended for use as permanent wiring. Unplug them when not in use.
  2. If you need to plug in two or three appliances, lamps, etc., do not use a simple extension cord. It is better to get a UL-approved unit that has built-in circuit breakers.

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Safety with Matches and Lighters

  • Buy match books that have a striking surface on the back cover.
  • Close the cover of the match book or box before striking the match.
  • Strike a match away from the direction of the body.
  • When striking a match, hold it an arm's length away.
  • Only use matches or lighters when nothing else is distracting you.
  • Matches or lighters are very dangerous around flammable liquids such as gasoline.
  • A waste basket is not an ash tray.
  • Throw a match away only after the flame is extinguished and cool to the touch.
  • Check your lighter regularly for cracks, leaks and other defects.
  • If lighter fluid is spilled on or near the lighter, it should be cleaned off completely before lighting the flame.
  • Persons with restricted mobility or reflexes and elderly persons must use extra caution with lighters and matches.
  • Teach children that matches are a tool that serve a good purpose when used properly but can be dangerous if used the wrong way.

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Safety while traveling, camping, or outdoors

If you're planning a vacation and your home will be empty, you can feel more at ease and enjoy yourself more it you check your home before you leave. Check to make sure that all stoves and electrical appliances have been turned off or disconnected. Unplug all television sets and radios. Lightning storms or sudden electrical surges could cause a fire in this equipment while you're away. When you return from your vacation, check your smoke detector to make sure it is functioning. Batteries could run down or other components could fail while you're away.

When you are traveling away from home and staying in a motel or hotel, it is important to know survival actions in case there is a fire. Many significant fires have occurred in high rise hotels such as the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and the hotel fire in Panama.

It is preferable to select lodging that has automatic fire sprinkler systems in place. As a minimum, you should select a hotel or motel that has smoke detectors installed. If you must stay in a facility without smoke detectors or sprinklers, request a room on the first or second floor. It is also a good idea to purchase a travel smoke detector that you can hang on a door as a minimum means of protection.

When you first get in your room, TEST THE SMOKE DETECTOR. If it does not work properly, immediately contact the front desk or the maintenance department and request that they fix it. Also at this time, you should read the fire safety information provided. It is usually posted near or on the back of the entry door. There is often a copy in the guest services directory on the desk in the room as well. Just like in your home, you need to plan your escape ahead of time. Locate the two exits nearest your room. Make sure the fire exit doors work and are unlocked. Locate the nearest fire alarm and read the operating instructions. In a real fire, the hallway may become dark with smoke so count the number of doors from your room to each exit. This way you will know where you are in case you get caught in a dark hallway. Keep your room key and a flashlight near the bed.

If you hear the fire alarm sound, or suspect a fire in the hotel, investigate, don't go back to sleep. If you see fire or smoke, call the hotel desk and the fire department immediately. Tell the person who answers the phone what room you are in.

If you hear the fire alarm, check the door with the back of your hand. If it is cool, slowly open the door and exit. If the door is hot or warm, leave it closed and stay in the room. Fill the bathtub with water. Place wet towels or sheets into cracks around the door to keep smoke out. Call the fire department and tell them you are trapped in your room, and give them the room number.

If the door is not hot and the hallway is not smoky, go to the closest fire exit. Be sure to take your room key with you. You might have to return to your room and want to be sure you can get back in. Crawl low under smoke down the hallway to the fire exit. Use a wet cloth over your nose and mouth. As you exit, pull the nearest fire alarm to warn other occupants, then leave the building. If you cannot go down, try to go up to the roof. Attract attention so they will know where you are.

If a fire starts in your room, leave immediately and close the door behind you to confine the fire and smoke to the room. Activate the fire alarm and call the fire department once you are safely out of danger.

Never use an elevator under fire conditions. Always take the stairs when exiting from a high-rise building. Elevators can malfunction. Many are heat-activated and have been known to stop directly at the fire floor.

Going back to nature with camping means leaving behind some familiar conveniences. It means using some unfamiliar procedures. To make sure a camping trip is an enjoyable one, be sure to follow safety rules.

Some tents are manufactured from cotton, which is a flammable substance. Sometimes the fabric treatment used to make tents waterproof actually increases the flammability, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Buy a tent that is flame retardant. Remember, "flame retardant" doesn't mean fire-proof. A flying ember from a fire can land on the tent and ignite it in seconds.

There are other things in a tent that can burn such as sleeping bags, clothing and people. A tent should be sited upwind from any campfire or outside cooking or lighting devices. Create a three- foot clearing around the tent. Only use battery-operated lights near or inside it. Always refuel any heat-producing appliance, such as lanterns and stoves, outside a tent. Always store flammable liquids, such as gasoline, outside a tent.

Don't cook inside a tent.

When preparing a campfire, a site should be selected that is away from grass, trees and tents. An area 10 feet around the campfire should be cleared of ground litter, twigs, leaves and organic material, down to bare soil. The site also should be downwind from the sleeping area to prevent catching a tent or sleeping bag on fire from a spark or ember. Rocks should be placed directly around the campfire pit.

If weather conditions are especially dry and you don't really need a fire for cooking, don't build one. A small spark is all it takes to ignite dry grass and leaves. Be sure to pay close attention to forest conditions and warnings from the park service. In Pennsylvania, you can call The Bureau of Forestry District Office to find out the current forest fire danger level.

Never use gasoline to light a fire. It is extremely explosive. A fire should be lit using kindling or a lighter stick. Keep a pail of sand or water nearby in the event it is needed to control the fire or extinguish it. Wear tight-fitting cotton or wool clothing while working near the campfire. Always keep a careful eye on fires. Make sure children don't play near them.

Before you go to sleep at night or if you leave the campsite for a while, be sure to extinguish the fire. Many forest fires are started each year from unattended campfires or those that were not completely extinguished. Douse the fire with water or sand, break up the coals, add more water or sand, stir it with a stick and cover the dead embers with dirt. Make sure the fire is completely out before bedding down or leaving the campsite.

If you're using a gas or liquid fuel camp stove or lantern, follow the manufacturer's directions. Make sure all connections are tight to avoid leaks. Never check for a gas leak with a lighted match. Instead, put a little soapy water on the connections. If the mixture bubbles, gas is seeping out. Don't try to use the appliance again until it's been checked by a professional. When using a camp stove or gas lantern, always fill it before each use. Do not refuel a hot stove or lantern. Wait until it cools off. Use a funnel to fill the appliances and wipe up all fuel spills before attempting to light it again.

When traveling with a camper trailer or recreational vehicle, use only electrically-operated or battery-operated lights inside. Maintain all appliances in a safe working condition and check them before use. Keep a fire extinguisher on board, preferably a multi-purpose one, and mount a smoke detector inside the vehicle.

When the vehicle is traveling down the road, shut down gas to stoves and water heaters by closing the fuel supply at the gas bottle.

Never operate combustion type or catalytic heaters inside closed campers or recreational vehicle. This could result in asphyxiation from either fumes or oxygen depletion.

Don't cook while the vehicle is underway. A sudden lurching of the vehicle may result in spilling of cooking grease, causing a fire.

Always fuel stoves or lanterns outside campers or recreational vehicles. Accumulation of vapors in the fueling process, from volatile fuels, could result in an explosion.

Avoid accumulating and storing combustibles such as newspapers and grocery bags in your vehicle.

When establishing a site for a barbecue, be sure there is nothing hanging overhead and it is a safe distance from trees, buildings and other combustibles.

When using charcoal grills, use only the lighter fluids designated for use with charcoal grills when starting your fire. Never use gasoline to start your fire. Immediately after using the lighter fluid, replace the fluid container in its storage location. Do not set it down by the grill. Never use gasoline to quicken a charcoal fire. Don't add a charcoal starter fluid to the fire after it has begun. The flames can travel up to the can and cause an explosion. Always keep starter fluids in containers with child-resistant caps, and keep them out of the reach of children.

Don't wear loose clothing or robes around charcoal grills.

Flaming grease can ignite clothing. Keep a small spray can of water handy to douse flaming grease. A spray bottle filled with water, such as used for sprinkling clothes, is excellent for this. Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) when used to fire a home barbecue, is contained under pressure in a steel cylinder. The contents of an LPG cylinder, vaporized and in a confined area, have the explosive force of several sticks of dynamite. Therefore, the wise user of LPG will be aware of the dangers involved and the precautions that must be taken.

Read the manufacturer's instructions and be sure you thoroughly understand them. Do not transport LPG cylinders in the trunk of a passenger vehicle. A filled cylinder should always be transported in an upright position on the floor of a vehicle with all windows open. Remove the cylinder from the vehicle as soon as possible. Never leave a cylinder in a parked vehicle.

Using the proper size of wrench, make sure that all connections are tight. Remember that fittings on flammable gas cylinders have left-hand threads, requiring effort in a counterclockwise direction to tighten.

Make sure that grease is not allowed to drip on the hose or cylinders.

Never allow children to use a gas-fired barbecue.

Don't be tempted by a rainy day to use outdoor cooking equipment inside - not even in a garage or on a porch or balcony. Never use a gas-fired barbecue inside any structure.

If you are using a butane or propane barbecue, be sure there are no leaks from the tank or plumbing. If you suspect a leak, spray a soapy solution of water and dish washing detergent over the tubing, hoses and fittings. If bubbling is found, turn off the supply at the tank and call a repairman.

When using these types of barbecues, be sure to light a match first and place it in the ignition hole before turning the gas valve on.

If you turn the gas valve on first, and then waste time looking for a match, flammable gas will build up inside the barbecue. When a lighted match is finally placed near the barbecue, an explosion may result.

When you are through cooking, turn the gas valve off to the barbecue and shut off the supply valve at the tank.

Never store any LPG cylinder - attached to the barbecue, or spares - inside any part of a structure, including porches and balconies. Store cylinders, including those attached to barbecues, outdoors in a shaded, cool area out of direct sunlight.

Power lawnmowers make the job much simpler than hand propelled mowers. But, if not used with caution, these lawnmowers can be dangerous. If you own a gasoline-powered mower or gasoline-powered outdoor yard maintenance tools such as a chain saw, check the condition of the muffler at the beginning of the season. Spark arresters on mufflers should be considered in areas where dry grass is common. Hot gasses from defective mufflers often can ignite dry grass. Never refuel power tools when the engine is running and never refuel it inside a tool shed or a garage. Do so only outside, in well-ventilated areas.

Once the engine has been fueled, wipe up gasoline spills. And, since gasoline vapors can travel along the ground and be ignited by a nearby flame, move at least 10 feet away from the fueling spot, and the vapors, before starting the motor. If you must refuel, cool the motor before doing so.

Never smoke when you use gasoline. Remember that the invisible fumes from the gasoline can seek out a spark or flame from as far as 50 feet away. Once the fumes meet the spark, you, your clothes and skin could be engulfed in flames. Keep away from cigarettes, water heater pilot lights and any flames if you're handling gasoline.

Store gasoline in a ventilated area in tightly closed cans away from children, sparks or flame source.

Boating enthusiasts look forward to getting their craft in the water. If you enjoy boating activities, remember that fire hazards exist on boats, too.

Don't smoke at fuel docks or during fueling procedures for your boat.

Make sure you have a Coast Guard-approved fire extinguisher on board your vessel. Know how to use it.

Always make sure that bilge fans are functioning to remove fuel fumes prior to starting the boat's engine. Those fumes could cause an explosion.

Don't refuel stoves or heating appliances in enclosed spaces.

Never cook when underway. A sudden lurch could cause grease to spill, causing a fire.

After painting and refurbishing operations, safely discard all oily and paint-filled rags. Never store these on board your boat. These rags can generate heat spontaneously and may self-ignite.

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Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an colorless, odorless, tasteless, deadly gas. It can kill you before you know it because you can't see it, taste it or smell it. At lower levels of exposure, it can cause health problems. Some people may be more vulnerable to CO poisoning such as fetuses, infants, children, senior citizens and those with heart or lung problems. When CO is breathed in by an individual, it accumulates in the blood and forms a toxic compound known as carboxyhemoglobin (COHb). Hemoglobin carries oxygen in the bloodstream to cells and tissues. Carbon monoxide attaches itself to hemoglobin and displaces the oxygen that the body organs need.

Carboxyhemoglobin can cause headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizzy spells, confusion and irritability. Later stages of CO poisoning can cause vomiting, loss of consciousness and eventually brain damage or death.

Carbon monoxide is a by-product of combustion of fossil fuels such as wood, natural gas and home heating oil. Fumes from automobiles contain high levels of CO. Appliances such as furnaces, space heaters, clothes dryers, ranges, ovens, water heaters, charcoal grills, fireplaces and wood burning stoves produce CO. Carbon monoxide usually is vented to the outside if the appliances are functioning correctly and the home is vented properly. Problems occur when furnace heat exchangers crack or vents and chimneys become blocked. Insulation sometimes can trap CO in the home.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Fire Department Mount Joy recommend installing at least one carbon monoxide detector with an audible alarm near the bedrooms. If a home has more than one story, a detector should be placed on each story.

Be sure the detector has a testing laboratory label.

The following is a checklist for where to look for problem sources of CO in the home. Fire Department Mount Joy recommends you have these professionally done by a qualified individual.

  1. A forced air furnace is frequently the source of leaks and should be carefully inspected.
    • Measure the concentration of carbon monoxide in the flue gases.
    • Check furnace connections to flue pipes and venting systems to the outside of the home for signs of corrosion, rust gaps, holes.
    • Check furnace filters and filtering systems for dirt and blockage.
    • Check forced air fans for proper installation and to assure correct air flow of flue gases. Improper furnace blower installation can result in carbon monoxide build-up because toxic gas is blown into rather than out of the house.
    • Check the combustion chamber and internal heat exchanger for cracks, holes, metal fatigue or corrosion. Be sure they are clean and free of debris.
    • Check burners and ignition system. A flame that is mostly yellow in color in natural gas fired furnaces is often a sign that the fuel is not burning completely and higher levels of carbon monoxide are being released. Oil furnaces with similar problems can give off an oily odor. Remember you can't smell carbon monoxide.
  2. Check all venting systems to the outside including flues and chimneys for cracks, corrosion, holes, debris, blockages. Animals and birds can build nests in chimneys preventing gases from escaping.
  3. Check all other appliances in the home that use flammable fuels such as natural gas, oil, propane, wood or kerosene. Appliances include water heaters, clothes dryers, kitchen ranges, ovens or cooktops: woodburning stoves, gas refrigerators.
    • Pilot lights can be a source of carbon monoxide because the by-products of combustion are released inside the home rather than vented outside.
    • Be sure space heaters are vented properly. Unvented space heaters that use a flammable fuel such as kerosene can release carbon monoxide into the home.
    • Barbecue grills should never be operated indoors under any circumstances nor should stove tops or ovens that operate on flammable fuels be used to heat a residence.
    • Check fireplaces for closed, blocked or bent flues, soot and debris.
    • Check the clothes dryer vent opening outside the house for lint.
  4. Check your garage to make sure exhaust from automobiles is not entering your house.

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Fireplaces and Chimneys


  • a fireplace removes more heat from your house than it puts in?
  • even though you are roasting in front of an open fire, the temperature of the room is not changing significantly and can even be dropping?
  • there is no chemical on the market that will clean a chimney?
  • you lose more heat through a fireplace opening, than through the equivalent size hole in the wall?
  • burning trash in your fireplace will damage your chimney and create a safety hazard?
  • as little as one millimeter of creosote lining the chimney can reduce a stove's efficiency by up to 15 percent?

Infrared energy is radiated outward from the fire. This energy is converted to heat on the surface it strikes, such as skin, the surface of a chair or your clothes. But if something comes between you and the fire, you notice the difference. The temperature of the air has not gone up one degree, and chances are it has dropped because air needed to supply the fire comes from outside at much cooler temperatures.

A wood stove, accompanied by a glass enclosure on the fireplace, is the best way to heat with wood.

The average volume of air that is pulled through an open chimney in an hour is equal to twice the total volume of air in your house. This varies slightly depending on the chimney and the size of the house but not by much. So all night while your furnace is busy pumping hot air in, the chimney very efficiently pumps the hot air out. This is why glass enclosures are important in helping to stop heat loss.

There are five good reasons to have a chimney cap:

  1. It keeps out the rain. Rain can soak into the mortar joints, weaken them and, therefore, weaken the chimney. If you have a metal firebox, rain will cause rust. If you have a wood stove insert, rain will rust it rapidly.
  2. A cap will keep out birds and other varmints. Bird droppings down the chimney can cause a bad smell and a breeding ground for mites. Installing a chimney cap can prevent roof fires, as its spark arrestor will trap the hot embers.
  3. A cap inhibits down drafting. Back puffing of smoke can result from several factors. One of these is down drafting, blowing smoke back down into the room.
  4. A cap keeps out leaves. Leaves can choke a flue and set off a chimney fire in a dirty flue.

A build-up of creosote in a chimney is a potential fire hazard. Dust-like carbon deposits called creosote collect on the inside of a chimney flue, impairing the draft. Creosote is a natural by-product of burning wood. The build-up will vary depending on the type of wood most used in the fireplace.

Soft woods, including pine and artificial logs, produce the highest level of creosote. These burn fast and leave a high deposit of creosote. Juniper is a little better. The best woods to use are hard woods, which include cedar, oak and mesquite. These burn slower, hotter and leave fewer deposits of creosote.

Creosote burns with an intense flame that can damage mortar. In a matter of seconds the fire spreads up through the flue, as the creosote is burning, creating a draft that only helps the fire burn. This is a chimney fire; it sounds like a roar, like a rocket taking off in your living room. If you think you have a chimney fire, leave the house and call 9-1-1.

The National Fire Protection Association recommends that chimneys be inspected once a year and cleaned if needed. When used regularly, the chimney should be checked every six months. How do you know whether your chimney needs cleaning? You may be able to tell by using a powerful light and a mirror to look up the flue from the bottom. If the bricks look pink, you're okay. If they are black or furry looking, it's time for cleaning.


  • Don't build a fire too big for the fireplace.
  • Don't use fire starters such as charcoal lighter, kerosene or gasoline to start the fire.
  • Fireplaces radiate heat just like space heaters so furniture and other combustibles should be kept a safe distance from the fire.
  • Be sure the chimney is clean and in good condition.
  • Be sure the damper is open before starting a fire.
  • Don't burn trash in the fireplace.
  • A screen or glass doors should cover the front of the fireplace to prevent sparks from flying out into the room.
  • Seasoned wood is safer than green wood. Hardwoods have less creosote build-up than softwoods.
  • Ashes should be removed into a metal container and allowed to thoroughly cool before being placed in the trash container.
  • Don't leave small children alone in a room with a fire.
  • Do not leave a fire burning when you go to bed or leave the house.

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Fire Drills

Planning | Practice

Fires can happen anywhere. A fire in a large building creates an enormous risk to everyone. Other reasons for evacuating buildings include natural gas leaks, earthquakes, hazardous material spills and storms. Knowing what to do is the key to surviving a fire emergency. Conducting regular fire drills will give you the knowledge and confidence to escape a fire safely. There are two steps for a good evacuation program - planning and practice.

Planning gives you the information you need ahead of time to evacuate safely. In the workplace, employees and supervisors should plan together for exiting their work site. At school, involve all school staff including teachers, administrative and office workers, and the maintenance and food service staff.

Working together, design an evacuation plan to meet the specific needs of your building and your occupants. Make the plan clear and concise. Review the plan and walk through the exit procedure to make sure that everyone knows what to do.

Each building, whether it be a school, workplace or multi-family living unit, should have a posted exit diagram (plan) and everyone should be familiar with it.

Be sure that smoke detectors are installed and maintained. Know the sound of the fire alarm. Everyone should recognize and respond to the sound of the smoke detector or other fire alarm immediately. Immediate response is vital for a quick, orderly evacuation.

Everyone should exit in an orderly manner to prevent confusion and minimize panic or injury. No one should push their way out an exit. Single file lines are best in controlling traffic to the exits.

Consider special needs people. When developing your escape plan, remember that younger, older, or disabled people may need special assistance. Anyone with special needs should be located as close to an exit as possible. Train others to give special assistance with evacuation.

Be sure to know two ways out. There should be two ways out of every area of the home, school, or workplace. If the primary exit is blocked by smoke or fire, use your second exit. Point out all emergency exits as you walk through the emergency procedure.

Always use the stairways to exit multi-story buildings. Do not use an elevator. An elevator may stop between floors, or go to the fire floor and stop with the doors open.

If a room or corridor is filled with smoke, crawl low on your hands and knees to exit. The cleaner air is closer to the ground.

Plan your meeting place. A designated meeting place outside the building is a vital part of an evacuation plan. Count heads. Be aware of who is there (hopefully everybody will be accounted for) and who is not there. When the fire department arrives, you can report if there is anyone missing.

Know what to do if you can't escape. You'll need to plan your actions in case immediate escape is impossible. If possible, for example, stay in a room with an outside window and always close doors between you and the fire. Think about what you could use - sheets, towels, curtains, or even large pieces of clothing - to stuff around cracks near the door and wave as a signal to rescuers. Know how to open the window to ventilate smoke, but be prepared to close the window immediately if an open window makes the room smokier. If there is a phone, call the fire department with your location, even if firefighters are already on the scene. Remember, stay low in smoke until you're rescued.

After planning, practice to make sure that everyone knows what to do. Have fire drills. Practice your fire escape periodically throughout the year. Remember, the element of surprise simulates a real fire and adds essential realism to your fire drill program.

Appoint someone to monitor the drill. This person will sound the alarm and make the drill realistic by requiring participants to use their second way out or to crawl low. This could be done by having someone hold up a sign reading "smoke" or "exit blocked by fire." The monitor also will measure how long complete evacuation takes.

Coordinate arrangements for fire drills in apartments or other multi-family homes, in schools or in workplaces with the local fire department.

After the evacuation, take a head count at the designated meeting place(s) to account for everyone's participation and safe evacuation.

When everyone is back inside the building after the drill, gather everyone together to discuss any questions or problems that occurred during the drill. Redesign the drill procedures as needed. Make the next fire drill even more effective.

Remember, once you are outside, stay outside. Don't go back in until the proper authorities say it is okay.

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Safety Tips

    Smoke detectors warn you of fire in time to let you escape. Install them on each level of your home and outside of each sleeping area. Follow the manufacturer's directions, and test once a week. Replace batteries twice a year, or when the detector chirps to signal that the battery is dead. Don't ever take the battery out for other uses!
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    If fire breaks out in your home, you must get out fast. With your family, plan two ways out of every room. Fire escape routes must not include elevators, which might take you right to the fire! Choose a meeting place outside where everyone should gather. Once you are out, stay out! Have the whole family practice the escape plan at least twice a year.
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    Keep portable space heaters at least 3 feet (1 meter) from paper, curtains, furniture, clothing, bedding, or anything else that can burn. Never leave heaters on when you leave home or go to bed, and keep children and pets well away from them.


    Carelessly discarded cigarettes cause tens of thousands of home fires every year. Never smoke in bed or when you are drowsy ! Provide large, deep ashtrays for smokers, and put water on the butts before discarding them. Before going to bed, check under and around sofa cushions for smoldering cigarettes.


    Keep cooking areas clear of combustibles, and don't leave cooking unattended. Keep your pot's handles turned inward so children won't knock or pull them over the edge of the stove. If grease catches fire, carefully slide a lid over the pan to smother the flames, then turn off the burner.


    In the hands of a child, matches or lighters are extremely dangerous. Store them up high where kids can't reach them, preferably in a locked cabinet. And teach your children from the start that matches and lighters and lighters are tools for adults, not toys for kids. If children find matches, they should tell an adult immediately.
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    If an appliance smokes or begins to smell unusual, unplug it immediately and have it repaired. Check all your electrical cords, and replace any that are cracked or frayed. If you use extension cords, replace any that are cracked or frayed; and don't overload them or run them under rugs. Remember that fuses and circuit breakers protect you from fire: don't tamper with the fuse box or use fuses of an improper size.


    If someone gets burned, immediately place the wound in cool water for 10 to 15 minutes to ease the pain. Do not use butter on a burn, as this could prolong the heat and further damage the skin. If burn blisters or chars, see a doctor immediately.


    Everyone should know this rule: if your clothes catch fire, don't run! Stop where you are, drop to the ground, and roll over and over to smother the flames. Cover your face with your hands to protect your face and lungs.


    If you encounter smoke using your primary exit, use your alternate route instead. If you must exit through smoke, clean air will be several inches off the floor. Get down on your hands and knees, and crawl to the nearest safe exit.

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