With Fire Prevention Week occurring this month (Oct. 4 — 10), Waverly Fire Chief Jeff Minshall spoke to the News Watchman recently concerning keeping area residents safe from fires and carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
Fire Prevention Week is always observed the week of Oct. 9 in remembrance of the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. The week gives local fire departments around the nation the opportunity to help educate communities about fire safety.
Minshall emphasized the need for working smoke detectors and working carbon monoxide detectors in homes.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), “Install smoke alarms inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement. On levels without bedrooms, install alarms in the living room (or den or family room) or near the stairway to the upper level, or in both locations. Smoke alarms installed in the basement should be installed on the ceiling at the bottom of the stairs leading to the next level.”
According to NFPA, “CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home and in other locations where required by applicable laws, codes or standards.”
Minshall said there is an emphasis now on people upgrading to 10-year model smoke detectors with sealed batteries, as many times people remove batteries from smoke detectors to use for other things, like remote controls or video games, leaving the home without a working smoke detector.
According to NFPA, “Smoke alarms with non-replaceable 10-year batteries are designed to remain effective for up to 10 years. If the alarm chirps, warning that the battery is low, replace the entire smoke alarm right away. Smoke alarms with any other type of battery need a new battery at least once a year. If that alarm chirps, warning the battery is low, replace the battery right away. When replacing a battery, follow manufacturer’s list of batteries on the back of the alarm or manufacturer’s instructions. Manufacturer’s instructions are specific to the batteries (brand and model) that must be used. The smoke alarm may not work properly if a different kind of battery is used.”
Checking smoke and carbon monoxide detectors each month (even if you have the 10-year models) by hitting the button to make sure they are still operable is also very important, according to Minshall.
Minshall said that 60 percent of homeowners do not check their smoke and CO detectors on a monthly basis.
“If the CO alarm goes off, it went off for a reason. It might be something has malfunctioned, but don’t hesitate,” Chief Minshall said. “Go ahead and call, and we’ll take the procedures from there because there is a reason that (it) went off … I’d rather err on the side of safety.”
Minshall indicated that even if there is a malfunction in the detector, the fire department still needs to know that so that it can be fixed.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is very deadly, so this is a life and death issue. According to NFPA, “If the CO alarm sounds, immediately move to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door. Make sure everyone inside the home is accounted for. Call for help from a fresh air location and stay there ...”
Another very important step in fire safety is to have an escape plan from your home or building in case of an emergency. Minshall stated that in an emergency, everyone in the home or building should get out, stay out and call 911.
He said that it is important to have a meeting place arranged for everyone in the home in order to make sure that everyone is accounted for. He said that it is important when the fire department pulls up to the scene for them to know whether or not everyone is outside and accounted for or if the fire department needs to rescue someone who is still inside.
Minshall emphasized that it is important in an emergency to get out, stay out and get to your meeting place. According to Minshall, only 43 percent of homeowners have an escape plan.
NFPA’s theme for this year’s Fire Prevention Week was “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen”, and, according to NFPA, unattended cooking is the leading cause of fires in the kitchen.
Minshall also touched on the subject of fire extinguishers. He indicated that it is recommended to have fire extinguishers that are up-to-date, in-service, and working, on every level of a home, especially around the kitchen or garage, however, the priority when there is a fire is getting out of the home and not trying to put out the fire yourself.
“You’re the most important thing,” he said.
He indicated that fire extinguishers are made to help you escape and get to safety rather than using multiple fire extinguishers yourself during a fire.
“If you have any kind of fire, they need to get out to safety and stay out and call 911,” Minshall said. “Thats priority; we’ll come and take care of the fire.”
NFPA states, “A portable fire extinguisher can save lives and property by putting out a small fire or containing it until the fire department arrives; but portable extinguishers have limitations. Because fire grows and spreads so rapidly, the #1 priority for residents is to get out safely.”
This month and next Ohio is in the season when no outside burning is allowed from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Minshall also reminded. In October and November, as well as in March, April, and May, it is illegal under the Ohio Revised Code to do any outside burning, even in a proper burn barrel. Of course, it is always illegal to burn certain items, such as trash, food waste, dead animals, or anything with a petroleum base.
Chief Minshall indicated that anyone with questions concerning fire and safety-related topics is welcome to call the Waverly Fire Department.
More detailed information on fire safety, including details on installing and maintaining smoke detectors as well as information on carbon monoxide detectors, can be found at nfpa.org/Public-Education