The season is changing, and autumn is upon us with all it’s beautiful colors, delicious foods, and chilly weather. That chilly weather means more of us will be turning on our furnaces, fireplaces, and space heaters for the first time since early spring. I want you to keep you and your home safe from fire and carbon monoxide disasters. I’ve even got some special tips for Seniors to keep them safer as well.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says that over 90% of homes report having a smoke detector installed, but 41% of fatal fires have a non-working detector, usually because of a missing or dead battery. Did you know there are two kinds of smoke detectors, that sense two different kinds of fires? An ionization smoke detector senses actual smoke and soot particles in the air and is best at detecting an active blaze. A photoelectric smoke detector senses reflected light off of the same particles, and can detect smoldering fires far earlier than the ionization smoke detectors. The experts at the NFPA recommend that you place BOTH types in your home, to best protect against any type of fire.
If you can’t reach your detectors, most fire stations will send someone to help you test them and replace your batteries. If you need additional detectors, any hardware or department store will carry a variety. Some even have a built-in emergency light to help you exit, or a flasher to alert the hearing impaired in an emergency. It’s also a good time of year to check your other equipment such as fire extinguishers to see if they still hold a charge, or need to be replaced. Make sure you have at least two exits from every room in your home, especially bedrooms. If your only second exit is a second story window, there are fire ladders that roll up and store neatly that can help you escape from a fire.
The other detector that is recommended for your home is a carbon monoxide detector. You can find more information on them from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). This senses the colorless, odorless gas that is given off during the process of combustion. If you have gas appliances, a fireplace, a non-electric space heater, or even an attached garage, you should have at least one carbon monoxide detector in your home. Carbon monoxide is deadly, and there are no obvious signs when an appliance is malfunctioning and leaking it into your home.
After you’ve checked your batteries, installed that extra detector or two, and ensured your escape and that your firefighting tools are ready when you need them, you’re nearly done. The final item on your safety checklist should be to make and practice a disaster plan. Involve everyone in the house in the planning. Children are great at coming up with ideas on where to meet after getting out of the house. A neighbor’s driveway? The mailbox? Decide if and who should grab the family pet. Practice the “stop, drop, and roll” technique with the children. They may find you hilarious, but it’s a lifesaving family memory. Then do a drill. Schools and institutions hold fire drills because they know that practice makes for calm, effective evacuation and saves lives. If you live alone, let a friend or neighbor know where you plan to go in case of a fire. That neighbor would be able to check and make sure you’ve gotten out, or tell firefighters that you’re still missing. Practice the escape route outside. Making those actions familiar will make it easier to do and remember them in a real emergency, and can show you where you may have difficulty in a real emergency and allow you to plan around it.