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Monday, October 21, 2013

Change your clocks, change your batteries


Submitted by Mike Lovas, Saint Paul Emergency Management

What type of batteries do your smoke detectors take?  If you don’t know, perhaps you haven’t changed your smoke detector batteries in quite a while.  The usual rule of thumb is to change your batteries twice a year using the start and end of Daylight Savings Time to remember to perform this simple but crucial preventative maintenance.  When you change your clocks, change your smoke detector batteries.

Each year, more than 2,500 people die and 12,600 are injured in home fires in the US, with property loss estimated at $7.3 billion every year.  Fire spreads quickly, becoming life-threatening in two minutes, and within five minutes a house can be engulfed by flames.  The flames aren’t the only threat either.  The heat and smoke produced by fire can be more dangerous.  Inhaling the super-hot air can scorch your lungs.  The smoke and gases produced can make you disoriented or drowsy.  Asphyxiation is the leading cause of fire deaths, exceeding burns by a ratio of three-to-one according to the US Fire Administration.

Many potential fire hazards in the home and at the workplace fall into three categories:  electrical hazards, natural gas hazards and flammable liquids.  Electrical fires are some of the most common fires in a house. 

Have you ever been running late or been distracted by kids, the dog, or something else and rushed out the door, forgetting to turn off an electrical appliance like the stove, oven, coffeemaker or even a space heater?  Do you daisy-chain power strips with more cords than an outlet can handle or use extension cords as permanent wiring, tucked behind a couch or table, to reach a lamp or other object?  Is your fuse box properly labeled? 

It is important to have evacuation plans to include alternate routes for your house, and it is important to practice and discuss these plans with all members of your family.  Review the placement of your smoke alarms.  Do they sound an alarm?  Voice alerts?  Some even have a bright light that can shine through smoke to help you find your way out.  This is important because room temperatures in a fire can be 100 degrees at floor level and rise to 600 degrees at eye level. 

Always have two ways to exit the fire area.  A backup escape plan is necessary in case your main escape route becomes blocked.  Whenever possible, as you leave the area, shut doors behind you to confine the fire.  Feel closed doors with the back of your hand, working from the bottom of the door up. Do NOT touch the door handle before feeling the door.  If the door is hot, there is a fire behind it. Do not enter! Opening the door will feed additional oxygen to the fire.  Trapped fuel vapors can ignite violently.

Did you know there are smoke alarms made for people with visual or hearing impairments?  Audible alarms for visually impaired people should pause with a small window of silence between each successive cycle so that they can listen to instructions or voices of others.  Smoke alarms with a vibrating pad or flashing light are available for the hearing impaired. Contact your local fire department for information about obtaining a flashing or vibrating smoke alarm.

For more fire safety tips visit http://www.ready.gov/fires

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