Home Fire Safety

Living here on
the Olympic Peninsula one of the things we need to pay attention to is fire
safety.  We are surrounded by trees and
while our summers are great, they are also dry. We also enjoy cooking out and
life gets a little more relaxed in the summer. In winter a lot of people heat
their homes with wood and other open flame systems. When you look at the risk
factors for injury and death by fire, it may give you the feeling you are
living in a statistic.  According to theCenters for Disease Control, the groups at greatest risk of fire related
injuries and deaths reads a lot like the demography of the Peninsula. Those
groups include adults over 65, people living in rural areas, people who live in
manufactured or substandard homes and Native Americans.

This year we’ve
had a lot of national news about wildfires, particularly in the Southwest.
While Washington gets its share of forest fires, they seem less common here on
the Peninsula than in Eastern Washington. Wildfires are disastrous situations
that often make news when they begin to devour numbers of houses, but it is
day-to-day risk that we need to be most concerned about. There are about
374,000 house fires every year in the United States and these fires produce
over 12,000 injuries and more than 2600 deaths every year. Experts calculate
that the treatment of burn injuries costs over $7.5 billion a year. You can get
a good idea about steps for preventing injury and death in fires by
understanding that there are two factors that significantly raise the risk for
injury and death. These are the absence of a working smoke detector and the
consumption of alcohol. Smoking is the leading risk factor associated with
death in fires, though one suspects the real trifecta is the combination of all
three – smoking, alcohol consumption and the absence of a smoke detector.

The top causes of household fires include cooking, heating and electrical malfunction. These
three causes account for about 80% of home fires. Some care and planning can
help you reduce your risk of fire and reduce your risk of injury if a fire
occurs. With a little over 50% of fires coming about as a result of cooking,
your first step should be to exercise care while cooking. Never leave
combustible materials on a stove or cooktop and don’t leave things cooking
unattended. This applies both in the kitchen and to outdoor grilling. Next, you
need to be concerned about what happens if your prevention efforts fail. Make
sure you have a working smoke detector to help assure early detection of fires
once they start. You should also have a working fire extinguisher available to
address small fires. Finally, in the event a fire does start and gets out of
hand you need an evacuation plan for your family.

Check your risk
for electrical fires by surveying your household to identify potential
problems. These would include frayed wiring, crowded receptacles and loose
connections. Repair, replace or reconnect anything that looks like a problem.

We aren’t doing
much heating now in Western Washington, but it’s a good time to inspect
chimneys and flues to make sure everything is ready for the heating season. If
you heat with wood or use your fireplace a lot, consider having your chimney
cleaned to get rid of the creosote that can build up in chimneys and create a
fire hazard.

There are some
good tools on the Internet that can help you survey your household and set up
could prevention measures. If you have children or grandchildren in your home
you can send them to sparky.org for some kid friendly information on fire
prevention. You can even download a fire safety checklist that you can use to
score your own household for its fire safety readiness.

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