January 5, 2012 BE FIRE SMART!
Preparing for the cold weather isn't only about keeping warm, but keeping warm safely!
A Fire and Life Safety message from the staff of College of Charleston Fire and EMS.
“EVEN WHEN IT IS COLD, SAFETY MUST BE PRIORITY!!!!”
WELCOME back from the holiday break!!! We hope everyone enjoyed the break! Now that Hurricane and Holiday Season has come and gone, we have made it through yet another uneventful year. However, it is obvious Old Man Winter has decided to take his stance with the beginning of 2012! As all of us here at the College of Charleston prepare to settle back into our daily jobs and the students return from the holiday break, the staff of College of Charleston Fire and EMS would like to share some helpful information and tips to keep you safe as the temperatures continue to remain cold. Please feel free to share these helpful tips with families and friends to keep them safe through the cold season also! If at any time anyone has any questions regarding fire and life safety pertaining to work or home please feel free to contact any of the Fire and EMS staff at 843.953.5499 with questions or concerns and we will be more than happy to provide you with as much helpful information as possible.
In 2011 there were 54 fire-related fatalities in South Carolina, which are 10 fatalities fewer than last year in 2010. Forty-two of these fatalities occurred in residences. Lexington and Charleston Counties equally had the most fire-related deaths in the state this year with 5each, Dorchester and Berkeley Counties reported 0 fatalities. The leading causes of fire fatalities continue to be electrical, heating, cooking, and smoking-related along with one death caused by a holiday tree. Three (3) multiple-fatality residential fires were responsible for 7 deaths and all of those reported fatalities occurred in Single Family Dwellings.
As all of you are aware, cold weather usually occurs during the months of January (14 deaths in 2011 in SC), February (10 deaths in 2010 and 5 in 2011 in SC) and March (7 deaths in 2011 in SC), which poses additional concerns for fire and life safety.
Extreme cold weather and power outages cause a higher fire threat due to the increased use of heating sources, such as electrical space heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves!
Most heating-related fires are often caused by:
• Leaving portable or space heaters unattended;
• Fueling errors involving liquid or gas-fueled heaters;
• Flaws in design, installation or use of heating equipment;
• Placing things that can burn too close to space and portable heaters, and;
• Lack of regular cleaning of chimneys in fireplaces and wood stoves.
• Overloading of extension cords using multiple heaters
Keep warm, but also keep safe by paying attention to a few safety precautions while using heating systems.
Electric heaters should have automatic safety switches to turn them off, when and if they are knocked or tipped over. They also should carry the UL approval label. Be sure to check cords before plugging in the heater. If frayed, worn or broken, do not use them. Either replace the heater or have an electrician replace the cord. Just putting tape on the cord is not enough to prevent overheating and fire. Never use extension cords with portable heaters. To supply a heater with a small, ordinary household extension cord will cause the cord to overheat and burn. Keep all materials that can burn at least 36 inches away from the heating unit. While some open face electric coil heaters are relatively inexpensive, please take the time to weigh the options and cost for purchasing a portable radiator style electric heater that doesn’t have an open face with electric coils.
Many kerosene heater-related fires are attributed to the misuse or abuse of the devices. Get started on the right foot by purchasing a heater that carries the UL label. This means it has been tested for safety. Be sure it has an automatic safety switch to shut it off if it’s tipped or knocked over. An automatic starter eliminates the need for matches and makes for safer starts. A fuel gauge will help ensure you do not overfill the heater dangerously. A safety grill on the front can prevent accidental contact burns. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for assembly. Use only crystal-clear 1K kerosene, never yellow or contaminated kerosene, or any other fuel. Refill the heater outside. DO NOT store kerosene inside your residence!! Store kerosene outside in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid that is clearly marked for kerosene use only. DO NOT put GASOLINE in kerosene heaters! When using kerosene heaters, be sure the room is well ventilated. If at all possible purchase and install a Carbon Monoxide Detector in your home if you are using a kerosene heater in case there is a malfunction in the operation of the heater.
Wood stoves and other wood-burning devices are popular heating systems. Before investing in one for your home, think as much about safety as you will about ease of use, efficiency and appearance. Have your stove installed by a professional. Keep a tight-fitting screen or glass doors in front of the stove or fireplace at all times. Special retaining screens can keep children and pets away from wood stoves and prevent burns. Dispose of ashes away from your home in metal containers, never in paper bags, cardboard boxes or plastic wastebaskets. Wet all ashes down to cool them thoroughly. Remember, ashes can retain enough heat to cause a fire for several days, so take no chances. As a reminder, the house fire in Stamford Connecticut that killed 5 people on Christmas morning was caused by improper disposal of fireplace ashes. http://gothamist.com/tags/fatalfire . Although these tips should help prevent a fire, know the signs of danger. A loud roar, sucking sounds and shaking pipes mean trouble and danger. If you hear these sounds, get everyone out of the house. Quickly shut off the fireplace’s air supply by closing any air intake vents in the firebox. Close the damper. Call the fire department from a nearby phone.
General Heating Tips
Keep any heater at least three feet (36 inches) away from anything that might burn. This means curtains, walls, furniture, papers, etc. To avoid injury and other mishaps, keep children and pets away from heaters. Always remember, don’t try to get a small device to do a big job. For best results, direct the heat from a portable heater where you want it. It won’t heat an entire room. Focus the heat where you need it - but not so close it can cause fires or burns.
If at all possible, avoid using candles for any sort of heating! They too are also known as the silent killers. Candles do not provide enough heat to justify their use against the odds or chances they can cause a fire. Often, candles are left unattended or on surfaces that will burn such as tapestries, wooden shelves, coffee tables, end tables or too close to curtains. Candles tend to be out of sight and out of mind once they have been lit until they burn down to the combustible surface they are resting on. Candles are often placed close to where people are sitting and when they are wrapped up in the blanket or cover keeping warm, they are called away unaware the candle is close by. The blanket or cover is removed and placed over or too close to the candle and by the time they return the room may be on fire. Be fire smart during the cold winter season and make yourself aware of your surroundings to avoid causing a fire!
Smoke Detectors and Escape Plans
Now is a great time to make sure your smoke detectors/alarms are in working order and to review your home escape plan so in the event of a fire, so everyone in your household knows how to get out quickly and safely. Establish a secondary path to get out of the house if your normal path is blocked by fire or smoke. If your bedroom is located on the second story of your residence consider purchasing an escape ladder. If you do not have a means to escape from the second floor of your residence, keep the door closed, place a blanket at the bottom of the door to slow or prevent the smoke from entering the room you are in. Go to the window and wave your hand or a light colored piece of clothing back and forth to get as much attention as possible from the arriving firefighters. Pre-arrange a meeting location at the front of your home near the street where the fire department will be arriving. That way when the fire department arrives, you can let them know whether or not everyone is accounted for once you are out of your house. If you are unsure of the proper operation of your smoke detector, contact the fire department that provides fire protection for your home and they should be able to assist you.
If you have a pet that normally stays outside consider this in the winter, pets need protection from extreme temperatures, which includes warm, dry, draft-free shelter; plenty of food; and lots of water. Take precautions any time the temperatures drop below freezing. If you have provided shelter for your pet while they are outside during the winter months consider placing blankets rather than hay inside their shelter. If you plan to heat their shelter with a light make sure that it is far enough away depending on the size of the pet. If the animal should get too close to the light it could burn the pet in addition to the possibility of breaking the light and an arch causing a fire in the shelter or injuring the pet. If you are in doubt, have a warm place like a garage or a screened porch, as to whether you should bring your pet in from the cold; just remember if it’s too cold for you………. it is probably too cold for your pet!
Please stay warm safely and smart!!!
Chief Rick Krantz, Captain Tim Agee and Captain Dave McDonough