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Every day Americans experience the horror of fire. But most people don't understand fire. Only when we know the true nature of fire can we prepare ourselves and our families. Each year more than 4,000 Americans die approximately 25,000 are injured in fires, many of which could be prevented. The United States Fire Administration (USFA), a division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), believes that fire deaths can be reduced by teaching people the basic facts about fire. Below are some simple facts that explain the particular characteristics of fire.
Fire is FAST!
There is little time! In less than 30 seconds a small flame can get completely out of control and turn into a major fire. It only takes minutes for thick black smoke to fill a house. In minutes, a house can be engulfed in flames. Most fires occur in the home when people are asleep. If you wake up to a fire, you won't have time to grab valuables because fire spreads too quickly and the smoke is too thick. There is only time to escape.
Fire is HOT!
Heat is more threatening than flames. A fire's heat alone can kill. Room temperatures in a fire can be 100 degrees at floor level and rise to 600 degrees at eye level. Inhaling this super hot air will scorch your lungs. This heat can melt clothes to your skin. In five minutes a room can get so hot that everything in it ignites at once: this is called flashover.
Fire is DARK!
Fire isn't bright, it's pitch black. Fire starts bright, but quickly produces black smoke and complete darkness. If you wake up to a fire you may be blinded, disoriented and unable to find your way around the home you've lived in for years.
Fire is DEADLY!
Smoke and toxic gases kill more people than flames do. Fire uses up the oxygen you need and produces smoke and poisonous gases that kill. Breathing even small amounts of smoke and toxic gases can make you drowsy, disoriented and short of breath. The odorless, colorless fumes can lull you into a deep sleep before the flames reach your door. You may not wake up in time to escape.
Fire Safety Tips
In the event of a fire, remember time is the biggest enemy and every second counts! Escape first, then call for help. Develop a home fire escape plan and designate a meeting place outside. Make sure everyone in the family knows two ways to escape from every room. Practice feeling your way out with your eyes closed. Never stand up in a fire, always crawl low under the smoke and try to keep your mouth covered. Never return to a burning building for any reason; it may cost you your life. Finally, having a working smoke alarm dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire. And remember to practice a home escape plan frequently with your family.
Working Together for Home Fire Safety
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.
STOP, DROP, AND ROLL
Each year, hundreds of people are killed or seriously injured from burns received when their clothing catches fire. Many of these fatalities and serious injuries could be prevented if the proper procedures were followed. The "Stop, Drop & Roll" Technique is relatively simple to follow. It is important that our senior citizens and small children be instructed in this technique as it is these two groups who are statistically most susceptible to clothing related fires. STOP. If your clothing catches fire, immediately stop. DO NOT RUN, or try to pat out the flames with your hands. DROP. Immediately drop to the floor or ground and lay out flat. ROLL. Once on the ground or floor, roll over and over smothering the flames as you roll. If a blanket, rug or large jacket is available it can be used to wrap the body, also smothering the flames. STOP, DROP and ROLL can save your life!
When to Call 911
Learning what is an emergency goes hand in hand with learning what isn't. A fire, an intruder in the home, an unconscious family member - these are all things that would require a call to 911. A skinned knee, a stolen bicycle, or a lost pet wouldn't. Still, teach your child that if ever in doubt and there's no adult around to ask to always make the call. It's much better to be safe than sorry. Make sure your child understands that calling 911 as a joke is a crime in many places. In some cities, officials estimate that as much as 75% of the calls made to 911 are non-emergency calls. These are not all pranks. Some people accidentally push the emergency button on their cell phones. Others don't realize that 911 is for true emergencies only. That means it's not for such things as a flat tire or even about a theft that occurred the week before. Stress to your child that whenever an unnecessary call is made to 911, it can delay a response to someone who actually needs it. Most areas now have what is called enhanced 911, which enables a call to be traced to the location from which it was made. So if someone dials 911 as a prank, emergency personnel could be dispatched directly to that location. Not only could this mean life or death for someone having a real emergency on the other side of town, it also means that it's very likely the prank caller will be caught and punished
How to Use 911
Although most 911 calls are now traced, it's still important for your child to have your street address and phone number memorized. Your child will need to give that information to the operator as a confirmation so time isn't lost sending emergency workers to the wrong address. Make sure your child knows that even though he or she shouldn't give personal information to strangers, it's OK to trust the 911 operator. Walk him or her through some of the questions the operator will ask, including: Where are you calling from? (Where do you live?) What type of emergency is this? Who needs help? Is the person awake and breathing? Explain to your child that it's OK to be frightened in an emergency, but that it's important to stay calm, speak slowly and clearly, and give as much detail to the 911 operator as possible. If your child is old enough to understand, also explain that the emergency dispatcher may give first-aid instructions before emergency workers arrive at the scene. Make it clear that your child should not hang up until the person on the other end says it's OK, otherwise important instructions or information could be missed.
More Safety Tips
Here are some additional safety tips to keep in mind: Always refer to the emergency number as "nine-one-one" not "nine-eleven." In an emergency, your child may not know how to dial the number correctly because of trying to find the "eleven" button on the phone. Make sure your house number is clearly visible from the street so that police, fire, or ambulance workers can easily locate your address. If you live in an apartment building, make sure your child knows the apartment number and floor you live on. Keep a list of emergency phone numbers handy near each phone for your children or baby sitter. This should include police, fire, and medical numbers (this is particularly important if you live in one of the few areas where 911 is not in effect), as well as a number where you can be reached, such as your cell phone, pager, or work number. In the confusion of an emergency, calling from a printed list is simpler than looking in the phone book or figuring out which is the correct speed-dial number. The list should also include known allergies, especially to any medication, medical conditions, and insurance information. If you have special circumstances in your house, such as an elderly grandparent or a person with a heart condition, epilepsy, or diabetes living in your home, prepare your child by discussing specific emergencies that could occur and how to spot them. Keep a first-aid kit handy and make sure your child and baby sitters know where to find it. When your child is old enough, teach him or her basic first aid.
The Impact of Smoke Alarms
In the 1960's, the average U. S. citizen had never heard of a smoke alarm. By 1995, an estimated 93 percent of all American homes - single - and multi- family, apartments, nursing homes, dormitories, etc. - were equipped with alarms. By the mid 1980's, smoke alarm laws, requiring that alarms be placed in all new and existing residences - existed in 38 states and thousands of municipalities nationwide. And smoke alarm provisions have been adopted by all of the model building code organizations. Fire services across the country have played a major and influential public education role in alerting the public to the benefits of smoke alarms. Another key factor in this huge and rapid penetration of both the marketplace and the builder community has been the development and marketing of low cost alarms by commercial companies. In the early 1970's, the cost of protecting a three bedroom home with professionally installed alarms was approximately $l000; today the cost of owner-installed alarms in the same house has come down to as little as $10 per alarm, or less than $50 for the entire home. This cost structure, combined with effective public education (including key private-public partnerships), has caused a huge percentage of America's consumers, whether they are renting or buying, to demand smoke alarm protection. The impact of smoke alarms on fire safety and protection is dramatic and can be simply stated. When fire breaks out, the smoke alarm, functioning as an early warning system, reduces the risk of dying by nearly 50 percent. Alarms are most people's first line of defense against fire. In the event of a fire, properly installed and maintained smoke alarms will provide an early warning signal to your household. This alarm could save your own life and those of your loved ones by providing the chance to escape.
In the event of a fire, a smoke alarm can save your life and those of your loved ones. They are the single most important means of preventing house and apartment fire fatalities by providing an early warning signal -- so you and your family can escape. Smoke alarms are one of the best safety features you can buy and install to protect yourself, your family and your home.
Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement. Many fatal fires begin late at night or in the early morning. For extra safety, install smoke alarms both inside and outside the sleeping area. Also, smoke alarms should be installed on the ceiling or 6 to 8 inches below the ceiling on side walls. Since smoke and many deadly gases rise, installing your smoke alarms at the proper level will provide you with the earliest warning possible. Always follow the manufacturer's installation instructions.
Many hardware, home supply or general merchandise stores carry smoke alarms. Make sure the alarm you buy is Unlisted. If you are unsure where to buy one in your community, call your local fire department (on a non-emergency telephone number) and they will provide you with some suggestions. Some fire departments offer smoke alarms for little or no cost.
Not a bit. In most cases, all you will need is a screwdriver. Many brands are self-adhesive and will automatically stick to the wall or ceiling where they are placed. However, be sure to follow the directions from the manufacturer because each brand is different. If you are uncomfortable standing on a ladder, ask a relative or friend for help. Some fire departments will actually install a smoke alarm in your home for you. Call your local fire department (again, on a non-emergency telephone number) if you have problems installing a smoke alarm.
Smoke alarms are very easy to take care of. There are two steps to remember. Simply replace the batteries at least once a year. Tip: Pick a holiday or your birthday and replace the batteries each year on that day. Some smoke alarms now on the market come with a ten-year battery. These alarms are designed to be replaced as a whole unit, thus avoiding the need for battery replacement. If your smoke alarm starts making a "chirping" noise, replace the batteries and reset it. Keep them clean. Dust and debris can interfere with their operation, so vacuum over and around your smoke alarm regularly.
Then it's doing its job. Do not disable your smoke alarm if it alarms due to cooking or other non-fire causes. You may not remember to put the batteries back in the alarm after cooking. Instead, clear the air by waving a towel near the alarm, leaving the batteries in place. The alarm may have to be moved to a new location.
About eight-to-ten years, after which it should be replaced. Like most electrical devices, smoke alarms wear out. You may want to write the purchase date with a marker on the inside of your unit. That way, you'll know when to replace it. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for replacement.
Some smoke alarms are considered to be "hard wired." This means they are connected to the household electrical system and may or may not have battery back-up. It's important to test every smoke alarm monthly. And always use new batteries when replacing old ones.
When used properly, portable fire extinguishers can save lives and property by putting out a small fire or containing it until the fire department arrives. Portable fire extinguishers for home use, however, are not designed to fight large or spreading fires. Even for small fires they are useful only under certain conditions: The operator must know how to use the extinguisher. There is no time to read directions during an emergency. The extinguisher must be within easy reach and in working order, fully charged. The operator must have a clear escape route that will not be blocked by fire. The extinguisher must match the type of fire being fought. Extinguishers that contain water are unsuitable for use of grease and electrical fires. The extinguisher must be large enough to put out the fire. Many portable extinguishers discharge completely in as few as 8 to 10 seconds.
What Type of Extinguisher Should I Use?
There are three basic classes of fires, and all extinguishers are labeled as to what type of fire they can put out. They will have standard symbols on them and if there is a red slash through a symbol that tells you it cannot be used on that kind of fire. The fire extinguisher must be appropriate for the type of fire being fought. If you use the wrong kind of fire extinguisher, you can make the fire worse and endanger yourself (for example, if you use a water extinguisher on an electrical fire, you'll find that to be quite a shocking experience ... using a pressurized extinguishing agent on a grease fire will spread the fire rather than extinguishing it). Multipurpose fire extinguishers can be used on all three classes of fires.
Class A Ordinary Combustibles Extinguish ordinary combustibles by cooling the material below its ignition temperature and soaking the fibers to prevent re-ignition. Use pressurized water, foam or multipurpose (ABC-rated) dry chemical extinguishers. DO NOT USE carbon dioxide or ordinary (BC-rated) dry chemical extinguishers on Class A fires. Class B Flammable Liquids, Greases, or Gases Extinguish flammable liquids, greases or gases by removing the oxygen, preventing the vapors from reaching the ignition source or inhibiting the chemical chain reaction. Foam, carbon dioxide, ordinary (BC-rated) dry chemical, multipurpose dry chemical, and halon extinguishers may be used to fight Class B fires.
Class C Energized Electrical Equipment Extinguish energized electrical equipment by using an extinguishing agent that is not capable of conducting electrical currents. Carbon dioxide, ordinary (BC-rated) dry chemical, multipurpose dry chemical and halon fire extinguishers may be used to fight Class C fires. DO NOT USE water extinguishers on energized electrical equipment.
What Size Extinguisher Should I Buy?
Portable fire extinguishers are also rated for the size of fire they can handle. This rating will appear on the label - for example, 2A:10B:C. The larger the numbers, the larger the fire that the extinguisher can put out ... but the higher-rated models are often much heavier. Make sure you can hold and operate an extinguisher before you buy it.
What You Need to Know About Installing and Maintaining Extinguishers
Fire extinguishers should be installed in plain view, above the reach of children, near an escape route and away from stoves and heating appliances. Fire extinguishers require some routine care. Make sure you read your operator's manual to learn how to inspect your fire extinguisher. Follow the manufacturer's instructions on maintaining the extinguisher. Rechargeable models must be serviced after every use (look in the Yellow Pages of your telephone directory under "Fire Extinguishers" for local companies that service them). The disposable fire extinguishers can be used only one time and must be replaced after use.
How To Use Portable Fire Extinguishers
Remember the PASS system: Papule the Pin Adm. extinguisher nozzle at the base of the flames Squeezes trigger while holding the extinguisher upright Sweeps the extinguisher from side to side ALWAYS make sure the fire department is called and inspects the fire site, even if you think you have extinguished the fire!
Should You Try to Fight the Fire?
Before you begin to fight a fire:
- Make sure everyone has left or is leaving the building
- Make sure the fire department has been called
- Make sure the fire is confined to a small area and is not spreading
- Make sure you have an unobstructed escape route to which the fire will not spread
- Make sure you have read the instructions and know how to use the extinguisher
It is reckless to fight a fire in any other circumstances. Instead, leave immediately and close off the area.
Exposing an Invisible Killer : The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide Each year in America, carbon monoxide poisoning claims approximately 480 lives and sends another 15,200 people to hospital emergency rooms for treatment. The United States Fire Administration (USFA) and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) would like you to know that there are simple steps you can take to protect yourself from deadly carbon monoxide fumes.
UNDERSTANDING THE RISK
What is carbon monoxide? Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas. Because it is impossible to see, taste or smell the toxic fumes, CO can kill you before you are aware it is in your home. At lower levels of exposure, CO causes mild effects that are often mistaken for the flu. These symptoms include headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue. The effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on age, overall health and the concentration and length of exposure. Where does carbon monoxide come from? CO gas can come from several sources: gas-fired appliances, charcoal grills, wood-burning furnaces or fireplaces and motor vehicles. Who is at risk? Everyone is at risk for CO poisoning. Medical experts believe that unborn babies, infants, children, senior citizens and people with heart or lung problems are at even greater risk for CO poisoning.
WHAT ACTIONS DO I TAKE IF MY CARBON MONOXIDE ALARM GOES OFF?
What you need to do if your carbon monoxide alarm goes off depends on whether anyone is feeling ill or not. If no one is feeling ill: 1. Silence the alarm. 2. Turn off all appliances and sources of combustion (i.e. furnace and fireplace). 3. Ventilate the house with fresh air by opening doors and windows. 4. Call a qualified professional to investigate the source of the possible CO buildup. If illness is a factor: 1. Evacuate all occupants immediately. 2. Determine how many occupants are ill and determine their symptoms. 3. Call your local emergency number and when relaying information to the dispatcher, include the number of people feeling ill. 4. Do not re-enter the home without the approval of a fire department representative. 5. Call a qualified professional to repair the source of the CO.
PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILY FROM CO POISONING
Install at least one UL (Underwriters Laboratories) listed carbon monoxide alarm with an audible warning signal near the sleeping areas and outside individual bedrooms. Carbon monoxide alarms measure levels of CO over time and are designed to sound an alarm before an average, healthy adult would experience symptoms. It is very possible that you may not be experiencing symptoms when you hear the alarm. This does not mean that CO is not present. Have a qualified professional check all fuel burning appliances, furnaces, venting and chimney systems at least once a year. Never use your range or oven to help heat your home and never use a charcoal grill or hibachi in your home or garage. Never keep a car running in a garage. Even if the garage doors are open, normal circulation will not provide enough fresh air to reliably prevent a dangerous buildup of CO. When purchasing an existing home, have a qualified technician evaluate the integrity of the heating and cooking systems, as well as the sealed spaces between the garage and house. The presence of a carbon monoxide alarm in your home can save your life in the event of CO buildup.