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Fall is time to practice fire safety

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ October 16, 2011

This week The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) released their annual plea for homeowners to inspect their residences for fire risks, make necessary safety improvements and prepare a family escape plan in the event of a fire. If you think this is a Pollyanna warning, you're not paying attention. The CPSC estimates 386,000 annual accidental home fires. FEMA reports that more than 3,500 Americans are killed in home fires every year.

The CPSC says about 40 percent of all annual unwanted home fires are caused by unattended cooking equipment and consumer cooking mishaps. The second-largest cause of fires and consumer deaths comes from malfunctioning or poorly set heating and cooling equipment, accounting for 57,000 fires and 220 deaths, 2006-2008. Half of those were caused by unattended or poorly attended fireplaces. Mattress fires kill some 600 people a year who smoke in bed. Electric system fires took 150 lives, followed in order of severity by faulty circuit interrupters.

Safety, alarms and escape plans

A small flame can turn into a multiple alarm fire in less than 30 seconds, FEMA says. The agency recommends that you have a plan to escape from fire for every room of the house and to practice escapes with your family. Plan secondary exits from each room as the doors may be filled with smoke or already on fire.

For upper stories, be sure windows open easily and that if you use security bars, show all family members to release them. Use collapsible safety ladders that are specifically approved for that purpose by the Underwriters Laboratory (UL). The Burn Institute recommends that you close all bedroom doors at night and install a smoke detector in each room. Most deadly home fires occur at night and toxic gasses from fires can prevent you from waking.

Never grab a doorknob with your fingers. Always test for heat first with the back of your hand. For parents with young children, review a fire escape procedure with all baby sitters. If the sitter thinks it's a joke, it may be time to hire someone else.

Many homeowners consider adding a sprinkler system as a home improvement project.The cost of a sprinkler fire installation system varies by home size and the number of sprinklers you use.

With Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas coming, you'll want to prevent fires from decorations, fireplaces and trees! Be safe this winter.

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