Fire Prevention and Safety
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
ESCAPE PLANS WILL DIFFER FOR EACH TYPE OF BUILDING! IT'S UP TO YOU TO PLAN THE PROPER ESCAPE FROM YOUR PARTICULAR BUILDING.
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!
BASEMENT, GARAGE, STORAGE AREAS:
LIVING \ FAMILY ROOM & BEDROOMS:
HOME ESCAPE PLAN
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.
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 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.
LAWNMOWERS AND GASOLINE
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.
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.
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.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...
A HEATING DEVICE
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.
KEEP IT ALL CLEAN
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.
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.
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.
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.