Preparing for the unthinkable was the focus on last week’s Citizens Fire Academy session. From generating a safety checklist to making an escape plan, class members were encouraged to plan ahead.
“Take a home safety checklist and walk around your house every month checking things off,” said McMinnville Fire Department training officer Capt. Phil Mitchell.
Lists should include checking smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, electrical outlets and appliance cords, making sure safety steps are being followed with candles, cooking, heating and smoking, and going over the home escape plan with family members.
Smoke alarms should be located on every level of the home and inside and outside each sleeping area. They should be tested and cleaned monthly, with batteries changed twice a year. Smoke alarms more than 10 years old need to be changed.
“A good rule of thumb is to change the batteries with the time changes, which will help remind you,” said Mitchell. “Test the alarms every month. During a fire is not a good time to find out you have a problem with a smoke detector.”
Carbon monoxide alarms should be located on each level of the home. Devices should be less than seven years old.
All appliances, cords and electrical outlets should be checked to make sure cords are not frayed, cracked or running under rugs, appliances are plugged directly into wall outlets, and outlet covers are intact. Never use extension cords with appliances. Clean the dryer lint filter and venting system.
Candles should always be in sturdy, fire-proof containers that won’t be tipped over. Extinguish all candles before going to bed or leaving the room. Never leave children and pets alone with candles.
Heating safety should include making sure furniture or other items are least three feet from fireplaces, wall heaters, baseboards, and space heaters. Chimneys and furnaces should be cleaned and inspected yearly. Never use extension cords with space heaters.
Smoking should be done outside the home.
“Smoking is a leading cause of fire disaster and death,” said Mitchell. “If you are going to smoke inside, use fire-safe cigarettes.”
The National Fire Protection Association estimates there were 90,800 smoking-related fires in the United States in 2010 which caused 610 deaths, 1,570 injuries, and $663 million in direct property damage.
Mitchell encourages smoking outside for the your own safety, as well as the safety of non-smokers. According to NFPA statistics on smoking-related fires, 1-in-4 people killed in home fires are not the smoker whose cigarette caused the fire. More than one-third were children of the smokers, while 25 percent were neighbors or friends of the smokers.
Safety measures include securing matches and lighters out of children’s sight, making sure ashtrays are large, deep and kept ways from items that can catch fire, and ashtrays are emptied into a container that will not burn.
Cooking safety includes making sure the cooking area is free from items that can catch fire, the kitchen stove hood is clean and vented outside, and pots are not left unattended on the stove.
Practice a fire escape plan and review it with every member of the house. Make sure there are two ways out of each room and individuals know to crawl low to the floor when escaping to avoid toxic smoke. Once outside, stay out. Establish a meeting place that is near the front of the home, so firefighters will know everyone is out.
Citizen’s Fire Academy is offered by McMinnville Fire Department to allow residents a look into the life of a firefighter. The class is free and open to anyone 18 years or older.
For more information, call the department at 473-6739.