Fire Prevention Tips

More than 4,000 Americans die each year in fires and approximately 20,000 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.

Alternate Heaters

bullet Portable heaters need their space. Keep anything combustible at least three feet away.
bullet Keep 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.
bullet 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 die in fires. Many of these fire deaths could have been prevented. Seniors are especially vulnerable because many live alone and can't respond quickly.

-info reproduced from the US Fire Administration

How Many Smoke Detectors Do I Need?

NFPA recommends that you have one smoke detector on every level of your home, as well as one near all of the sleeping areas in your home. For example, if your sleeping areas are nestled together in a wing of the house, one smoke detector in the hallway would probably sound loud enough to awaken anyone sleeping. However, if your sleeping areas are on separate ends of the hallway, you will want to invest in a second smoke detector to protect that separate bedroom. The best way to make sure that you have enough smoke detectors is to listen to them yourself. If there are any areas in the house where the sound from an activated smoke detector is faint, muffled, or difficult to hear, or if anyone in your family does not wake up when a smoke detector sounds, you probably need additional smoke detectors. Remember, even a working smoke detector can't get you out of danger's way- be sure that you have and practice a home escape plan!

Where Should I put Up Smoke Detectors In My House ?

Your smoke detector should be positioned in your house ideally on the ceiling, or on the wall, between 4-6 inches away from the ceiling-wall intersection.
Be sure to place your smoke detector:

bullet On the ceiling, at least six inches away from the wall. A fire can often "trap" pockets of air where the wall and the ceiling meet -- smoke might never reach the smoke detector in this "dead air space".
bullet 20 feet away from "sources of combustion particles" (stoves, furnace, water heater).
bullet Away from the kitchen. A smoke detector too close to the kitchen might frequently signal false alarms.
bullet In areas where the temperature is between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Colder or warmer temperatures (like the temperatures in an attic) might set off false alarms and also shorten the life of the smoke detector's battery.
bullet In dusty, dirty, or greasy areas.
bullet Near air vents, ceiling fans, or other drafty areas. Drafts can blow the smoke away from the smoke detector, preventing the smoke detector from sounding.
bullet More than one foot away from fluorescent lights.
bullet If the ceilings are sloped, peaked, or gabled -- 3 feet from the highest point of the ceiling.
bullet Where the manufacturer recommends its placement. Read the instructions to be sure that you are placing the unit in the absolute best location.

Should I Use Battery or Electric Smoke Detectors ?

Both electric smoke detectors and battery-powered smoke detectors have benefits and drawbacks. Battery powered smoke detectors must have regular maintenance, including frequent testing and battery replacement. However, they are easy to install and relatively inexpensive. Electric smoke detectors are much easier maintenance-wise, but must be hardwired into your house. The Valley Hill Fire & Rescue Department also recommends that you select an electric smoke detector that has a battery back-up, in rare cases, an electrical fire, or a power outage has been known to short out an electric smoke detector, silencing the alarm.

Why Is My Smoke Detector Chirping ?

If you hear a faint "chirping" or "beeping" noise approximately every 30 seconds, your smoke detector is probably trying to tell you something : It's hungry ! Some smoke detectors are built to sound a warning alarm when the battery power begins to run low. By chirping, the smoke detector is trying to get your attention and convince you to put a new battery inside it. Of course, if you know how to properly maintain your smoke detector, you probably won't hear this type of chirping.

How Do I Test My Smoke Detector ?

Your smoke detector's manual should give you detailed instructions on how to test your smoke detector. Usually, this is done by pressing a button in the center of the smoke detector. If you press this button down for a few seconds and it beeps, then the battery should still be working. If the smoke detector does not beep, then replace the battery and test again.

Are There Smoke Detectors for the Hearing Impaired ?

bullet People who are hard-of-hearing also need the protection that smoke detectors provide. Smoke detectors for the hearing impaired are smoke detectors that have a strong strobe light attached to the circuitry. When the smoke detector detects the smoke, the strobe light begins blinking.
bullet If you are installing one of these smoke detectors, follow the instructions on where to locate this detector. You might want to install the smoke detector inside the appropriate bedroom, rather than in the hallway, so that the light will be stronger when anyone is at their most vulnerable: when they are asleep. Also, you might need more than one hearing-impaired smoke detector for the home.
bullet Remember, too, that you'll need a hearing-impaired smoke detector when you are sleeping away from home. Hotels and Motels usually have hearing-impaired smoke detectors available upon request.

What Types of Smoke Detectors Exist?

bullet 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.
bullet Photoelectric 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.

I Can't Afford to Buy a Smoke Detector, How Do I Get One?
Contact the local fire department in the town which you live in.

-info reproduced from Valley Hill Fire and Rescue

Many times, apartments have only one way to get in or out. Therefore, working smoke alarms are especially important. Make sure you have a fire escape plan and a meeting place set up for your family. Familiarize yourself with the location of fire extinguishers in your apartment complex and learn how to use them. Never park in fire lanes or block fire hydrants.

Burns can come from many sources including flames, scalds, chemicals, electricity and the sun. There are three types of burns. First-degree burns are superficial burns that are pink or red and painful but cause only minor damage to the skin. They usually heal within 3-5 days. Second-degree burns are more serious. They damage the top two layers of skin; blisters may be present and there will be pain and swelling. These may require a physician’s care depending on the size of the area covered by the burn. The most serious burn is the third-degree burn. This burn destroys all layers of the skin. The skin may be very bright red or dry and leathery, charred, waxy white tan or brown. There will be no sensitivity in the burned area because of nerve damage. These burns will require a physician’s care and will need skin grafts to heal.

The best immediate treatment for a burn is to hold the burned area under cool water. Do not use ointment, grease, or butter on a burn. They can confine the heat of the burn and keep the area from cooling. After a burn has been cooled, an antiseptic may be applied to help prevent infection. There is only one exception to the “Cool a Burn” rule, which is a burn by lime powder. In that cause, brush the lime off the skin and rinse with water. If a burn is serious, call 911.

There are several things to remember when calling 911. Call only if you have an emergency, which requires immediate help from the fire department, the police department or the EMS (Emergency Medical Services). You should always be prepared to give the nature of the emergency, your name, the address of the emergency and the number from which you are calling. Stay on the phone until the 911 dispatcher hangs up.

The back seat is the safest place for any child under the age of 12, especially if the vehicle has passenger-side air bags. Always make sure that your child is in an approved car safety seat, facing the correct direction. Make sure your child safety seats are installed correctly.

Infants under the age of one and under 20 pounds should always ride in the back seat, in a rear-facing child safety seat.

Children less than 8 years who weigh less than 80 pounds must ride in a weight-appropriate child safety seat or booster seat.

Did you know that approximately 24 children, ages 14 and younger, die from carbon monoxide poisoning each year? In 1999, an estimated 3,400 children in this age group were treated in hospital emergency rooms for CO poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is a by-product of incomplete combustion of natural gas, gasoline, oil, wood, propane, coal and kerosene. Carbon monoxide replaces oxygen in the blood and can cause brain damage, short–term memory loss, learning disabilities, coma, or even death. Symptoms of CO-poisoning, including headache, fatigue, nausea and dizziness, are often mistaken for the flu. If you feel better when you leave your home and symptoms come back when you return, you may suspect CO poisoning.

Infants and children are especially vulnerable to carbon monoxide poisoning because they have higher metabolic rates and the gas accumulates in their bodies faster than in adults. Unborn babies have an even higher risk of birth defects, neurological disorders and death when the mother is exposed to carbon monoxide.

Sources of carbon monoxide in the home include malfunctioning furnaces, water heaters, ovens stoves, gas-fired dryers, clogged chimneys, corroded flue pipes, and unvented space heaters. Automobiles left running in attached garages also pose a hazard, even if the garage doors are open.

The Tryon Fire Department offers these tips to protect your child from carbon monoxide poisoning:

· Install a UL-approved carbon monoxide detector. It’s estimated that CO detectors could prevent half of all CO poisoning deaths. An adult should install the detector in every sleeping area and on each level of the home.

· If the CO alarm goes off, leave the home immediately can call the fire department or your local utility company. If a family member displays symptoms of CO poisoning, seek medical assistant immediately.

· Remember to keep fuel-burning household appliances regularly inspected and properly maintained. Have your chimney cleaned annually before cold weather arrives.

· Never use an oven to heat your home.

Trying to beat the heat in the summer? If your plans include cooling off with a portable electric fan or window air conditioner, the National Electrical Safety Foundation (NESF) and the Hickory Fire Department recommend you take a few minutes to conduct a safety check before using these appliances.

· Your electric fan should have guards or enclosures, which are securely fastened. Grill openings should be small enough so that fingers, especially children’s small fingers, cannot accidentally touch the moving fan blade.

· Read and follow the manufacturer’s safety and operating instructions before using the product. Keep the instructions handy in case you have questions about the maintenance of your fan.

· Check for frayed cords or broken plugs. If you spot these hazards, don’t use the fan. Touching even a single exposed strand of wire can give you an electric shock or burn if the fan is plugged in.

· Place the fan on a level, stable surface.

· Position the fan and cord so the fan won’t be bumped or knocked over by people or pets walking through the room.

When using a window air conditioner, check for any cracks or deterioration in the power cord insulation. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for correct installation.

· Air conditioners operate at either 110 or 220 volts - - never tamper with the plug or wiring to try to get the unit to operate from outlets that do not match the plug’s configuration. If new wiring or a different outlet is needed, have it installed by a qualified electrician in accordance with the National Electrical Code (NEC).

· Like other electrical products, electric fans and room air conditioners have one function – to provide or circulate cool air. Never use them to dry clothing or other materials.

Limit your use of extension cords. These devices are intended for occasional use only. If you must use an extension cord, make sure it is properly rated to safely handle the current drawn by the product. By following these suggestions, the Tryon Fire Department hopes you will have a cooler and safer summer.

Everyone should know their home and the best way to get out of it in case of a fire. Design a fire escape plan that works for you and your family. Review the plan and have practice fire drills to make sure everyone knows what to do and where to go. Plan two ways out of each room in case your first route is blocked by smoke or fire. Pick a designated meeting place outside your home where family members will go in case of a fire. Having everyone in the same place will let you know if all people are out of the house. Remember when designing your escape plan that very young, elderly or handicapped family members may need special assistance in getting out.

If you live in a building with an elevator, never use the elevator in the event of a fire. Take the stairs instead.

Smoke alarms provide a warning when there is a fire. Make sure you have working smoke alarms on each floor of your home and in the bedroom areas. Family members should know what a smoke alarm is and how it sounds. You should check your smoke alarms once a month to make sure they are working and change the batteries at least once a year.

Fourth of July, New Years Eve and other celebrations are times when people enjoy watching fireworks. Yes, fireworks can be fun to see, but they also can be very dangerous. To keep your celebration from turning into a tragedy, the Tryon Fire Department recommends that you leave fireworks to professionals. However, if you do plan to use fireworks, please use the following precautions:

· Always read and follow label directions.

· A responsible adult should be the person using fire works and children should be only observers.

· Purchase fireworks from a reliable dealer.

· Ignite outdoors only.

· Have water handy to extinguish fires or soothe burns.

· Never experiment or attempt to make your own fireworks.

· Light only one firework at a time.

· Never re-ignite malfunctioning fireworks and be extremely cautious of ones that do not work the first time.

· Do not permit children to handle fireworks.

· Store fireworks in a cool, dry place and dispose of properly.

· Never throw fireworks at another person.

· Never carry fireworks in your pocket or shoot them in metal or glass containers.

According to a report released by the National Fire Protection Association, fireworks caused over 11,000 reported injuries in the United States last year and the majority of those injuries involved fireworks that are legal under the current federal law. For an example, sparklers, which are often considered safe, can reach temperatures higher than 1200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Nearly 14,000 people are treated each year for burn injuries related to the misuse of gasoline. REMEMBER: gasoline has only ONE proper use – to power vehicles or machinery. Gasoline is highly volatile! Just one gallon of gasoline is equivalent to 14 sticks of dynamite in explosive force. When using gasoline, follow these safety tips for the protection of you and your family:

· Never use gasoline around a flame source. Be particularly aware of often forgotten sources such as matches, cigarettes and pilot lights.

· Use gasoline only outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.

· Start barbecue fires with fuels labeled as charcoal starters – never use gasoline.

· Fill the tanks of gasoline-powered equipment, such as power mowers, when they are turned off and cool – running engines can spark and cause ignition of the gasoline.

· Don’t transport gasoline in your automobile – a fiery explosion may result if there is a collision.

· Never siphon gasoline by mouth – even a few drops inhaled into the lungs may cause death.

· To clean grease off hands, use industrial strength hand cleaner – never gasoline.

· If gasoline is spilled on clothing, change clothes immediately and wash the clothing – even when the clothing appears to be dry, the material may still contain enough gasoline to present a serious hazard.

Never store gasoline in the house or garage. If you must store gasoline, do so only in well-ventilated areas away from the house. Use only approved safety cans, which have flame arresters and pressure-release valves. Never use glass or plastic bottles for gasoline storage.

Keep gasoline locked up when not in use. Always keep it out of reach of children. If gasoline is swallowed do not induce vomiting, seek medical attention immediately.

Warning! In October ghost and goblins (also known as "trick-or-treaters") will be roaming the country to find treats on Halloween. Before sending "trick-or-treaters" out, parents should take precautions to ensure the safety of these goblins.

The Tryon Fire Department suggests the following:

· When purchasing a Halloween costume and mask, make sure they are labeled flameproof. The fabric used in costumes is usually a thin material and very easily ignited. Remind children to keep away from open flames such as jack-o-lanterns.

· Use a flashlight in your jack-o-lantern instead of a candle. A flashlight should provide a good light and the danger of knocking it over and being burned will be eliminated.

· Make sure children carry a flashlight and not a candle to light their way. Parents can purchase reflective strips to place on children so they are visible to drivers.

· Remind your child to pay special attention to traffic on Halloween night and obey all traffic signals. Parents should definitely accompany young children as they go trick-or-treating.

· Make sure children go only in familiar neighborhoods while looking for treats.

· Always help children check their treats carefully before eating them.

When Polk County residents think of winter, we often think of holiday parties, festive decorations, and glowing fireplaces. What we may not realize is that December, January and February are the leading months for home fires and home fire deaths in the U.S. On average, more than one-third of U.S. home fire deaths occur during the winter months.

The nonprofit National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) statistics show that heating equipment fires are the second leading cause of fire deaths in American homes, but during the winter, they are the number-one culprits. Tens of thousands of home heating fires kill hundreds of people on average each year.

According to NFPA, home heating fires are most commonly caused by inadequate chimney cleaning; placing things that can bum too close to space and portable heaters; fueling errors involving liquid- or gas-fueled heaters; and flaws in the design, installation or use of heating equipment.

The good news is that most of these fires are preventable. It's simply a matter of being aware that these hazards exist, and taking the few steps necessary to avoid them.

Firefighters recommend the following:

· Have all home heating systems and chimneys inspected annually and cleaned, if necessary, before the start of each heating season.

· If you use space or portable heaters, keep anything that can burn, including people, pets, and furniture, at least three feet away on all sides of the heater.

· When leaving the room or going to sleep make sure to turn the heaters off.

The Tryon Fire Department would like to remind you all of some safety precautions to help your Holiday Season be as safe as possible.

· When cooking those holiday meals, please remember to have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen. Make sure that the extinguisher is charged and readily accessible. The extinguisher should be rated for A, B, and C. fires. This can be affirmed by looking at the side of the extinguisher.

· Remember, if a grease fire occurs, simply cover it with a lid. Do not attempt to extinguish with water or any other extinguishing agent, as this will aid in the spread of the fire.

· If you feel that a kitchen fire is not extinguishable, evacuate the residence immediately and notify the fire department by dialing 911 from a neighbor’s house or from a cell phone.

· Keep the kitchen as safe as possible by turning pot handles in toward the stove. This will help prevent the possibility of the pans being knocked off the stove causing severe burns. Keep stoves clean and free from grease and crumbs.

· Don’t leave food unattended on the stove.

· Make sure that all electrical cords are maintained so they will not be shock hazards.

This is also a great time to ensure that your smoke detectors are working correctly.

The Tryon Fire Department reminds residents there are safe practices to follow to avoid injury when doing lawn and garden projects. This advice from the nonprofit Home Safety Council can help keep families safer outdoors:

· Wear proper eye protection when using power tools; avoid loose or dangling clothing that can be caught in moving parts; use earplugs with loud equipment.

· Keep mowers and power tools “off limits” to young children.

· Store pesticides and all lawn products in original packaging on high shelves or inside locked cabinets.

· Store ladders, rakes, forks, clippers and other tools properly; return them to storage after use.

· Keep children well away when mowing and never let them ride on mowing tractors.

· Check the yard for broken limbs, stones and toys that can shoot out under the mower; wear closed-toe shoes when mowing to prevent injury.

· Refuel mowers and other gasoline-powered tools outside, when the motor is cool, and well away from lit cigarettes, sparks and flames.

· Never reach under a mower when it is turned on.

Use gasoline as a motor fuel only; store gasoline in an approved, vented container, up high.

Over 1.55 million burn injuries occur each year in the U.S. and Canada with over 100,000 people treated in hospitals and emergency facilities for scald burns every year. A majority of these burns are caused by contact with hot tap water and hot liquid spills. Children under the age of five and adults over 65 are often the most seriously and frequently affected.

The National Burn Awareness Coalition and the Tryon Fire Department urge citizens to take the following steps to reduce these serious burn injuries:

· Lower your water heaters to 120 ° F or less. At 160 ° F it takes less than one second to get a third degree burn ... at 120 ° F it's almost impossible.

· Install tempering valves in either the water line or bathtub. It's best to use a valve, which regulates the temperature and pressure.

· Before placing a child in the bathtub, test the temperature of the bath water by moving your hand through the water for several seconds. If the water feels hot, add cold water until the temperature feels comfortable.

· Do not leave young children alone in the bathroom or near portable appliances such as coffee pots, electric frying pans, etc.

· Keep children at a safe distance while drinking or pouring hot liquids.

· Test all hot food and drink before feeding your child, especially if heated in the microwave. Do not hold a child while testing... hot foods or drinks which can easily spill.

Smoke rises. Smoke detectors are put on the ceilings because smoke will begin to accumulate around the ceiling. This is something that all firefighters know and why they usually enter a burning house on their hands and knees, so they can see better. Most fatalities in a fire are from smoke inhalation. There are many different poisonous gases found in smoke such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen cyanide, and hydrogen sulfide. When someone inhales these poisons they lose muscle control, and judgment and reasoning are impaired. These gases, hot air, and smoke may cause people to make bad decisions. If you find yourself in a building with smoke, drop down to your hands and knees to find the nearest exit. If you come to a closed door, use the back of your hand to test for heat. If it hot turn around and find another way out. Use the walls of a building to help guide you out of a smoke filled building.

There are more than 15,000 people each year that are seriously injured by their clothing being caught on fire. When your clothes or someone else’s catch fire, action must be taken immediately. NEVER run. To minimize injury you should STOP, DROP, and ROLL. Burns are the third leading cause of unintentional death in the US and can be very painful. There are some body parts that are at higher risk because they are delicate structures; these include the hands, groin, face, and lungs. Some clothes catch on fire easier such as loose fitting clothes or a fluffy pile will ignite faster than tight fitting, denser fabrics. Fabrics such as nylon, once ignited, melt and burn the skin causing sever burns. There are four rules to STOP, DROP, and ROLL.

· Stop; do not run, if your clothes catch on fire.

· Drop to the floor in a prone position.

· Cover your face with your hands to protect it from the flames.

· Roll over and over to smother the fire. Don’t stop until the flames have been extinguished.

Winter weather can bring extremely cold weather including ice, snow, and high winds to many areas of our state. To help deal with these conditions, the Tryon Fire Department offers the following advice:

· If your power goes out, use a flashlight instead of candles. More people have died after winter storms from residential fires caused by candles than from the direct effects of the storm itself.

· Use portable space heating equipment very carefully. Heaters should be placed at least three feet away from any combustible material, including drapes, carpeting, and furniture. Do not drape gloves, socks, or other clothing over a space heater to dry.

· Remember to always turn off space heaters before leaving home or going to bed. For their safety, children and pets should be kept away from heating equipment.

· Fuel-filled equipment such as kerosene heaters should be filled outdoors and only when they are completely cool.

· Do not use gas grills, generators, or open flames inside your home. These items create carbon monoxide, which can cause death. Also make sure you install a carbon monoxide detector in your home.

· Have essential supplies, including flashlights, a radio, first aid kit, protective clothing and winter wear, canned foods, and at least three gallons of water (preferably more). Also listen to Weather Radio, The Weather Channel, and local television broadcasts for the latest information about storm conditions.

· Plan to stay at home during bad weather, but if you must drive and become stuck, stay with your car. Do not try to walk to safety.