FIRE SAFETY IN THE HOME ENHANCED BY PLANNING, PREPARATION, EQUIPMENT

FIRE SAFETY IN THE HOME ENHANCED BY PLANNING, PREPARATION, EQUIPMENT

Annually, almost 4,000 Americans die and more than 25,000 are injured in home fires. Carbon monoxide poisoning kills more than 200 each year, and another 10,000 people are treated for exposure. The county fire marshal’s office offers some tips on mitigating the dangers of home fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Q: What kind of equipment should be kept in a home to enhance fire safety?

A: Smoke alarms and fire extinguishers. Each home should have at least two smoke alarms, placed near bedrooms and not too close to the kitchen. Test each smoke alarm monthly and replace batteries twice each year. Also, familiarize your family with the sound of the smoke alarms you install. Fire extinguishers should be placed in kitchens and bedroom hallways, and all family members should be trained in their proper operation.

Q: If fire breaks out in the home, what is the best way to survive?

A: A fire evacuation plan is crucial to surviving a home fire. A home fire can become a killer in as little as three minutes. Steps to a safe escape include taking smoke alarms seriously, planning two ways out of every room and practicing the escape plan twice each year, crawling low as if under smoke. Plan a meeting place outside the home, call 911 from a neighbor’s home and stay out of the burning structure once you’ve escaped.

Q: How do I teach my children basic fire safety?

A: Children cause more than 100,000 fires each year, and about 30 percent of fires that kill children are set by children. Teach children that fire is a tool, not a toy, and that it is fast, hot and deadly. Keep matches and lighters in a secure drawer or cabinet. To see if your child may be playing with fire, check under beds, in closets and other secret places where children may be playing with fire. Look for burned matches and candles. If you find evidence of a child playing with fire, confront the child immediately and stress the danger of the activity. If you belong to a parent-teacher organization, work with the schools to bring fire experts into the classroom to talk with youngsters about fire safety and the dangers of playing with fire.

Q: What about electrical fires?

A: Many home fires are started by carelessness with electricity. Don’t overload circuits by using extension cords and power strips. Never place cords or wires under rugs, over nails or in high-traffic areas. If an appliance or outlet sputters, sparks or emits an unusual smell, shut it off immediately and contact a certified electrician. Unplug appliances when not in use and follow the manufacturer’s safety guidelines.

Q: What about carbon monoxide?

A: Carbon monoxide is an odorless, invisible and toxic gas that can come from gas-fired appliances, charcoal grills, wood-burning furnaces, fireplaces and motor vehicles. Exposure to the gas at lower levels can cause flu-like symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue. Install at least one Underwriters Laboratories-approved carbon monoxide alarm (with an audible warning signal) near bedrooms. Have a professional inspect all fuel-burning appliances, furnaces, venting and chimney systems at least once a year. If the carbon monoxide alarm activates, first turn off all appliances and sources of combustion, like the furnace or fireplace, then ventilate the house with fresh air by opening doors and windows. Call a professional to investigate the source. If family members appear ill in any way, evacuate the structure immediately and call 911. Do not re-enter the home until a fire department official gives you permission to do so.

Q: Whom can I call for more information about fire safety?

A: Residents of Las Cruces, Hatch, Mesilla and Sunland Park can call their municipal fire department and ask for assistance. Residents of the unincorporated areas of Doña Ana County may call the county Fire Marshal’s Office at 1-877-827-7200, extension 7921.