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TIPS FOR FAMILY FIRE SAFETY
The following information and tips are presented to you by Public Adjusters USAô, Inc. Diligent preparation can prevent a personal catastrophe. 4,000 people are killed every year, and 20,000 are injured, many with serious and painful burns. This is serious business.
- 80% of fire and smoke fatalities occur in homes without working smoke detectors. One of the most important things you can do is to make sure that smoke detectors are placed near bedrooms on every level and at the top of every stairway. This alone will reduce the chance of you becoming a fire victim by 50%.
- Test your smoke detectorsí batteries regularly and never, ever borrow one of their batteries.
- Have both a primary and a secondary escape plan predetermined from each room. Have a predetermined place outside for all family members to meet if there is a fire. People have died trying to rescue someone who had already safely escaped.
- Rehearse both escape plans regularly, especially with smaller children. Why not rehearse your plans in the presence of your childrenís friends and cousins? Encourage their friends and cousins to initiate fire safety techniques in their homes too. Fire safety is a great topic for a childís school report.
- Escape doors, hallways, and windows must be clear of obstructions and easy to open.
- If fire or smoke is noticed, all members must vacate the house immediately. Call for help from a neighborís house or use a portable or cellular phone outside. Many fatalities have occurred because of the delay to immediately evacuate in order to call 911. Fire produces poisonous gases which can make you quickly impaired. ONCE YOU ARE OUT, STAY OUT!
- Obviously, upstairs bedrooms should have rope ladders, and the windows must be easy to open (including the storm window).
- If a basement is used for sleeping or recreation, an oversized knock-out window should be installed.
- It is wise not to use extension cords, but if absolutely necessary, make sure they are UL approved and heavy duty.
- Never used frayed or cracked electrical cords.
- Never put a cord under rugs, over nails, or in high-traffic areas.
- Never overload electrical outlets or extension cords.
- Make sure all fuses in the fuse box are the correct size. Please donít use jumpers.
- Make sure all electrical outlets and switches have cover plates and no exposed wiring.
- If a space heater is ever used, make sure the cord does not get hot (a sign of a possible overload).
- If a space heater must be used, make sure it is in a location where it cannot be knocked over and is a safe distance away from curtains, bedding, furniture, and anything else which it can easily ignite. Some fires even occur when someone dries wet towels or socks by hanging them over the space heater. It is dangerous to use an extension cord for a space heater.
- Many fires occur in the kitchen around the stove. Do not put small pans on large burners or large pans on small burners. Do not use dish towels as pot holders, and always turn pot handles away from the front of the stove. People who cook with baggy clothes, often find them ignited by brushing against the hot burner.
- Try not to store anything over the stove. Many people get burned reaching, and again, loose fitting garments can catch fire.
- Flammable materials should not be stored inside your home, but if they are, they should be stored in a cool, isolated place, preferably in a heavy-duty metal cabinet. Fumes from flammable materials are often ignited by pilot lights or the lighting of a cigarette.
- If smoking is allowed in the house, use large ash trays. If guests are over, make sure they have large ash trays available. Always soak cigarette butts before discarding them.
- Consider designating a specific area in a house where smoking can take place. It is very easy for the smoker who is a little careless to cause a fire. Sometimes they need to be watched. Animals can also knock over ash trays onto sofas and other ignitable items.
- Allow plenty of air space around the TV and stereo to prevent overheating.
- Keep lighters and matches away from small children. Children are naturally curious of fire, and in many cities, over 50% of all fires are caused by young children. They are easily tempted to play with matches and lighters. Even worse is when they start a fire and often get scared. Then instead of yelling for help, they run and hide underneath a bed or in a closet.
- If you have a fire place, be sure to use a metal screen.
- Have your chimney checked and cleaned regularly. Look for birdsí nests also.
- Never smoke in bed. Hundreds of people die every year because they fall asleep with a cigarette in bed, on the sofa, or in a chair.
- If a fuse blows, find the cause.
- Donít store things close to your furnace or hot water heater.
- Because it is so important, we repeat it again. If a fire occurs, GET OUT IMMEDIATELY! Donít try to grab your possessions. Donít call 911 from your house unless everyone is out and you can call from an exterior doorway. It is best to go to the nearest neighborís house to call.
- If your clothes catch fire, donít run! Stop where you are, cover your face with your hands, drop to the ground, and roll over to smother the flames. This is called "stop, drop, and roll."
- Do not use butter or margarine on a minor burn. Cool water is better. Obviously though, any large or deep burn must have medical attention immediately.
- Smoke inhalation claims more lives than the fire or heat. When evacuating a burning building, try to avoid smoky ways out. If you have no choice, get down and crawl as low as you can to find the best remaining air as you escape. The smoke and toxic gases will rise leaving any good air low to the floor.
- If the fire occurs in the same room you are in, try to close the door behind you on your way out. Also close all other doors behind you. This will give it less oxygen and delay the fireís spreading.
- If you believe thereís a fire but donít know where it is, before opening a closed door, use the back of your hand to touch it. Donít open it if it feels warm. Not only will smoke instantly fill the room you are in, but by supplying the fire with a whole room of oxygen, the sudden back draft of flames may consume you almost instantly. Even if it doesnít feel warm, open it very slowly with your shoulder against it. If any smoke or heat comes in, slam it shut and use your alternate escape route.
- If you find that your exit is cut off by the fire, it wonít be easy, but try to remain calm. Try to conserve your energy to help yourself survive. Close the door nearest to the fire, and if available, use towels or sheets to block any smoke and toxic gases. This will help keep smoke from spreading into the room. If the room becomes smoky, get down to the floor level. Itís easier to breathe because the smoke will rise upward. Go to the window if you are on an upper floor, open the window, and if you do not have your rope ladder, try to attract the attention of others who can alert the fire department. If you are in immediate danger, you will have no choice but to jump. If available, drop cushions or bedding or any other soft items to the ground to break your fall. Then, crawl out of the window feet first and lower yourself to the full length of your arms before dropping.
- Print a copy of this list and refer to it regularly. Why not print a couple for your friends and relatives?
- Candles are very, very dangerous. They are often forgotten and can easily be tipped over by children or pets.
- Curling irons cause many fires. They are placed on surfaces that are easily ignited and/or are not turned off before leaving the room. Many models have an automatic turn off feature which is highly recommended for your safetyís sake.
- Never leave oily rags laying around. Those with linseed oil are the most dangerous. Store them in sealed cans only.
- Consider a sprinkler system, especially if a family member would not be able to escape unassisted.
- Make sure everyone can clearly hear the sound of your smoke detectors from their bedrooms.
- Once again...test and maintain your smoke detectors as if your life depends on them. IT DOES!
- The above suggestions and tips are in no way exhaustive. If you have another one which may be helpful to our readers, please let us know. We will add it to the list.
- Remember, 4000 people die every year from fire or smoke inhalation, and 20,000 are injured. Fires can start so easily, and it only takes an unguarded or careless moment to start one. A fire loss is a devastating experience, even when all family members and occupants escape without injury. Should you, a friend, or relative sustain a fire loss, do not hesitate to contact us. Also a tremendous amount of insurance consumer information can be obtained on our web site at www.publicadjustersUSA.com.
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