General Fire Safety Tips
More than 4,000 Americans die each year in fires and approximately 25,000 are injured. An overwhelming number of fires occur in the home. There are time-tested ways to prevent and survive a fire. It’s not a question of luck. It’s a matter of planning ahead.
Every Home Should Have at Least One Working Smoke Alarm
Buy a smoke alarm at any hardware or discount store. It’s inexpensive protection for you and your family. Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home. A working smoke alarm can double your chances of survival. Test it monthly, keep it free of dust and replace the battery at least once a year. Smoke alarms themselves should be replaced after ten years of service, or as recommended by the manufacturer.
Prevent Electrical Fires
Never overload circuits or extension cords. Do not place cords and wires under rugs, over nails or in high traffic areas. Immediately shut off and unplug appliances that sputter, spark or emit an unusual smell. Have them professionally repaired or replaced.
Use Appliances Wisely
When using appliances follow the manufacturer’s safety precautions. Overheating, unusual smells, shorts and sparks are all warning signs that appliances need to be shut off, then replaced or repaired. Unplug appliances when not in use. Use safety caps to cover all unused outlets, especially if there are small children in the home.
- Portable heaters need their space. Keep anything combustible at least three feet away.
- Keep the fire in the fireplace. Use fire screens and have your chimney cleaned annually. The creosote buildup can ignite a chimney fire that could easily spread.
- Kerosene heaters should be used only where approved by authorities. Never use gasoline or camp-stove fuel. Refuel outside and only after the heater has cooled.
Affordable Home Fire Safety Sprinklers
When home fire sprinklers are used with working smoke alarms, your chances of surviving a fire are greatly increased. Sprinklers are affordable – they can increase property value and lower insurance rates.
Plan Your Escape
Practice an escape plan from every room in the house. Caution everyone to stay low to the floor when escaping from fire and never to open doors that are hot. Select a location where everyone can meet after escaping the house. Get out then call for help.
Caring for Children
Children under five are naturally curious about fire. Many play with matches and lighters. Tragically, children set over 20,000 house fires every year. Take the mystery out of fire play by teaching your children that fire is a tool, not a toy.
Caring for Older People
Every year over 1,200 senior citizens dies in fires. Many of these fire deaths could have been prevented. Seniors are especially vulnerable because many live alone and can’t respond quickly.
Smoke Alarms/Detectors Save Lives!
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.
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 gasses, 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.
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.
There is two basic type of smoke detectors:
- 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.
- Photoelectric detectors – These type 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.
Choosing a smoke detector
When choosing a smoke detector, there are several things to consider. Think about which areas of the house you want to protect, where the fire would be most dangerous, how many you will need, etc.
The Emerson Fire Department 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.
The safest bet is to have both kinds or a combination detector with a battery backup. 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 of 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 uninsulated 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.
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 grillwork 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.
How to Report a Fire
When reporting a fire, please remember the following:
DO NOT attempt to fight the fire. Leave the house immediately and get yourself and others out of the house and to a safe meeting place.
Call 911 from a neighbor's house or cell phone.
Report the address of the fire along with any other pertinent information (i.e. location of the fire)
Inform the 911 operator if there are people or animals still in the home
Preventing Electrical Fires
Electrical fires are one of the leading types of home fires, especially in manufactured homes.
During a typical year, home electrical problems account for 67,800 fires, 485 deaths, and $868 million in property losses. Home electrical wiring causes twice as many fires as electrical appliances.
December is the most dangerous month for electrical fires. Fire deaths are highest in winter months which call for more indoor activities and increase in lighting, heating, and appliance use. Most electrical wiring fires start in the bedroom.
The Cause - Electrical Wiring
- Most electrical fires result from problems with “fixed wiring” such as faulty electrical outlets and old wiring. Problems with cords and plugs, such as extension and appliance cords, also cause many home electrical fires.
- In urban areas, faulty wiring accounts for 33% of residential electrical fires.
- Many avoidable electrical fires can be traced to misuse of electric cords, such as overloading circuits, poor maintenance and running the cords under rugs or in high traffic areas.
- Home Appliances
- The home appliances most often involved in electrical fires are electric stoves and ovens, dryers, central heating units, televisions, radios and record players.
Prevent Electrical Problems
Studies of electrical fires in homes show that many problems are associated with the improper installation of electrical devices by do-it-yourselfers. Common errors that can lead to fires include the use of improperly rated devices such as switches or receptacles and loose connections at these devices. Both can lead to overheating and arcing that can start fires. Fires are still caused by people using the wrong size fuse or even putting a penny behind a fuse when they don’t have a spare. These practices are very dangerous. The fuse is a safety device designed to limit the electricity carried by the circuit to a safe level. Electricity and water are a bad combination. All electrical devices installed outdoors should be specially designed for outdoor use. Outdoor receptacles as well as those in kitchens, bathrooms, and anywhere else near water should be the ground fault circuit interrupting type (GFCI).
Use Electrical Devices Safely
Light bulbs, especially the newer halogen types, get very hot and can ignite combustible materials that get too close. Clothing or towels should never be placed atop a lampshade and table lamps should not be used without a shade where they might fall over onto a bed or sofa. Most light fixtures are labeled to show the brightest bulb that can be safely used in that fixture; too high a wattage bulb can cause the fixture to overheat and start a fire. Extension cords are a common cause of electrical fires. You must be careful to use only extension cords that are rated for the power used by the device they are powering. Extension cords should never be used as a long-term solution to the need for another receptacle. Extension cords must never be run inside walls or under rugs or furniture. Extension cords can get warm in use and must be able to dissipate this heat or they can start a fire.
Maintain Electrical Safely
The insulation on electrical cords can become damaged by wear, flexing, or age. Do not use any cord that is stiff or cracked. Some clues that you may have an electrical problem are:
- Flickering lights. If the lights dim every time you turn on an appliance that circuit is overloaded or has a loose connection.
- Sparks. If sparks appear when you insert or remove a plug, they could be a sign of loose connections.
- Warm electrical cord. If an electrical cord is warm to the touch, the cord is underrated or defective.
- Frequently blown fuses or broken circuits. A fuse or circuit breaker that keeps tripping is an important warning sign of problems.
- Frequent bulb burnout. A light bulb that burns out frequently is a sign that the bulb is too high a wattage for the fixture.
- Routinely check your electrical appliances and wiring.
- Frayed wires can cause fires. Replace all worn, old or damaged appliance cords immediately.
- Use electrical extension cords wisely and don’t overload them.
- Keep electrical appliances away from wet floors and counters; pay special care to electrical appliances in the bathroom and kitchen.
- When buying electrical appliances look for products which meet the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) standard for safety.
- Don’t allow children to play with or around electrical appliances like space heaters, irons and hair dryers.
- Keep clothes, curtains and other potentially combustible items at least three feet from all heaters.
- If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet. Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord.
- Never overload extension cords or wall sockets. Immediately shut off, then professionally replace, light switches that are hot to the touch and lights that flicker. Use safety closures to “child-proof” electrical outlets.
- Check your electrical tools regularly for signs of wear. If the cords are frayed or cracked, replace them. Replace any tool if it causes even small electrical shocks, overheats, shorts out or gives off smoke or sparks.
You can’t see it, smell it or taste it.
Where does it come from?
Carbon monoxide is produced whenever any fuel such as gas, oil, wood, or kerosene is burned. Carbon monoxide enters the home when any of these appliances are not working and/or venting correctly. For example; a chimney or vent may have become blocked, the heat exchanger in your furnace or boiler may have cracked.
What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that robs your body of oxygen. The symptoms can easily be confused with the flu. In fact, the highest incidence of carbon monoxide poisoning occurs during flu season. High concentrations of carbon monoxide can lead to unconsciousness, brain damage or death.
You may experience some or none of the symptoms listed below. You should suspect carbon monoxide poisoning if symptoms disappear when you leave your home.
- Headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, shortness of breath, weakness, vision problems or loss of muscle control.
What should you do if you suspect carbon monoxide is in your home?
- Get fresh air and seek medical attention.
- Vent your home by opening the windows and doors.
- Call the Fire Department, we can check your home for carbon monoxide levels.
How can you protect yourself against carbon monoxide poisoning?
- Have your heating system and appliances inspected and serviced each year by a licensed professional.
- Have a qualified professional inspect your chimney and appliance vents for any blockage.
- Ensure your home is ventilated.
- Install carbon monoxide alarms on every level of your home
Winter Fire Safety
Winter Fire Safety Tips
Fire Chief Keith Badler encourages all Marlboro Residents to take a moment to think about fire safety this winter. New Jersey experiences more fires during the winter months than any other time. Taking simple precautions can prevent most fires. Follow the safety tips below to help ensure your family’s safety. Remember; fire safety starts with you.
Give heaters space. Put at least 36 inches of empty space between the heater and everything else, like furniture, curtains, papers and people.
Vacuum and clean the dust and lint from all heaters. A buildup of dust and lint can cause a fire.
Check the cord on portable electric heaters. If the cord gets hot, frayed or cracked have the heater serviced.
Never use extension cords with portable electric heaters. It is a common cause of fires.
Turn off portable heaters when family members leave the house or are sleeping.
An adult should always be present when a space heater is used around children.
Make sure your portable electric heater is UL approved and has a tip-over shut off function.
Woodstove and Fireplace Safety
Have a certified chimney sweep clean and inspect your chimney and fireplace for creosote build-up, cracks, crumbling bricks and obstructions.
Place fireplace or wood stove ashes outdoors in a covered metal container at least three feet away from anything that burns.
A flue fire can ruin your chimney or stovepipe. To prevent flue fires, burn dry, well-seasoned wood. Burn small, hot fires. Don’t burn trash.
Always use a fireplace screen made of sturdy metal or heat-tempered glass to prevent sparks from escaping. (If children are present, use a special child-guard screen as a barrier for your woodstove.)
Alternative Heat Sources
Kerosene heaters are not approved for use in homes in New Jersey. Kerosene heaters can emit poisonous fumes.
Barbecues, charcoal grills and camp stoves are for outdoor use only. These items can produce carbon monoxide. Odorless and colorless, a build-up of carbon monoxide can be deadly.
If you have a portable generator, make sure you place it in a well-ventilated area. Read the manufacturer’s instructions before using it.
Be sure generator fuel is properly and safely stored according to fire regulations. Never store fuel or flammable liquids in a basement or near an open flame. Always refuel the generator outdoors and away from any ignition sources.
If you choose to have a generator permanently connected to your home’s electrical system, make sure a licensed electrician installs it and be sure to notify you electric company. Improperly installed generators can cause multiple types of hazards not only for you but for power company workers as well.
Use gasoline only as a motor fuel, never as a cleaner.
Always use gasoline in a well-vented area, outside is best.
Never use gasoline to start fires.
Store gasoline in an approved well-labeled container. Make sure the container is tightly sealed. Store gasoline outside the house, in a shed or detached garage. Store only small amounts.
Make sure all flammable liquids are stored away from ignition sources such as pilot lights, water heaters, electrical appliances and open flames.
Like many other efficient fuels, propane is highly flammable. That means it can be dangerous is not handled properly.
If using a propane fueled heater, make sure it is designed for indoor use. Read all of the manufacturer’s instructions and make sure it is properly vented.
Do not use propane barbecues (or any other type of barbecue) indoors.
If you have propane fueled appliances, make sure they are properly vented and follow all manufacturer’s instructions.
If you smell gas, do not operate any switches, appliances or thermostats. A spark from one of these could ignite the gas. Get everyone outside and away from the building. Shut off the gas supply. Call your propane supplier from a neighbor’s phone.
Smoke Alarms and Home Escape Plans
Working smoke alarms alert you to a fire and more than double your chances of surviving a fire. In a fire, minutes could mean the difference between life and death.
Install smoke alarms in every home, on every level, outside each sleeping area and in each bedroom.
Test and vacuum your smoke alarms each month to make sure they are working.
Smoke alarms ten years old or older need to be replaced with new units.
When the smoke alarm sounds, get out fast!
Plan your escape. Know two ways out of every room.
Once out stay out!
Practice your escape plan with your whole family at least twice a year.
Place candles in a sturdy fire-proof candleholder where they cannot be knocked over.
Make sure all candles are out before going to bed or leaving the house.
Keep candles matches and lighters out of children’s reach.
Keep candles away from Christmas trees, evergreen clippings, decorations, presents and wrapping paper.
Preventing Christmas Tree Fires
- Christmas Tree Fire Hazards – Movie segments demonstrating how fast a live Christmas tree can become fully engulfed in flames. Special fire safety precautions need to be taken when keeping a live tree in the house. A burning tree can rapidly fill a room with fire and deadly gases.
- Selecting a Tree for the Holiday
Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needle should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.
- Caring for Your Tree
Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
- Disposing of Your Tree
Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or woodburning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community pick-up service.
- Maintain Your Holiday Lights
Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
- Do Not Overload Electrical Outlets
Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires – they should not be warm to the touch.
- Do Not Leave Holiday Lights on Unattended
- Use Only Nonflammable Decorations
All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents.
- Never Put Wrapping Paper in a Fireplace
It can throw off dangerous sparks and produce a chemical buildup in the home that could cause an explosion.
- Artificial Christmas Trees
If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.
- Avoid Using Lit Candles
If you do use them, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Never leave the house with candles burning.
- Never Put Lit Candles on a Tree
Do not go near a Christmas tree with an open flame – candles, lighters or matches.
Finally, as in every season, have working smoke alarms installed on every level of your home, test them monthly and keep them clean and equipped with fresh batteries at all times. Know when and how to call for help. And remember to practice your home escape plan.
Put together an emergency kit. At a minimum include a flashlight, extra batteries, portable radio, canned/packaged foods, tool kit, bottled water, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, extra blankets and clothes.
Be familiar with winter storm warning terms.
Freezing rain – Rain freezes as soon as it strikes the ground, putting a coating of ice on roads and other exposed objects.
Flood watch – Be alert to signs of flash flooding and be ready to evacuate on a moment’s notice.
Winter storm watch – Severe weather may affect your area.
Winter storm warning – Severe weather conditions are definitely on the way.
For more information on emergency preparedness visit the New Jersey Emergency Management web site: http://www.state.nj.us/njoem/preparedness.html.