Fire Prevention

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I do not want anything from you, but I do hope to share something with you, something that you’ll find beneficial. In 2002, our house caught fire. I was at work at the time, my wife and daughter were home sleeping. It was early in the morning on Super Bowl Sunday. It was determined that our Black and Decker toaster oven was the cause. It just turned itself on. So first: do not leave cheap, small appliances plugged in. These would be things like toasters, toaster ovens, hair dryers, space heaters, blenders, coffee makers, crock pots, etc. Also, old lamps and any appliance with a ratty looking appliance cord. That should be kind of obvious, but I’d feel negligent if I didn’t mention it.

After the fire, the fire investigator told me that manufacturers of these cheap appliances do not use quality electronic components. It’s sad, but with consumers opting for cheap, and unwilling to pay for quality,  there’s no getting around the inevitable break down or malfunction. So if you have one, unplug it when it’s not in use.

Nobody ever thinks that they’re going to have a house fire. We sure didn’t. It does happen though, and it could happen to you. There are some things that you can do before that happens. First, no matter where you live, or how close you are to the fire hydrant or fire department, you need to have a plan. What would you do, how would you escape? This needs to be more than a thought. It needs to be discussed and practiced by all occupants living in the home.

Everyone should keep a flashlight next to the bed. At the instant you have a fire, you may not know the source, and electrical fires can spread faster if you engage a switch on a faulty circuit. So use a flashlight instead

You should have smoke detectors in all bedrooms, hallways and other living spaces. It’s best to have the type that are interconnected, so that if a fire starts in one part of the house, everyone is alerted. When we had our fire, they were not interconnected, but fortunately my wife heard the main level smoke alarm through a baby monitor. Our young daughter had pneumonia, so we had the monitor plugged in so that we could hear her if she needed anything.

That brings me to another smoke alarm issue. Some people advise not to install smoke alarms in a kitchen area due to the fact that kitchen cooking frequently causes nuisance alarms. Well, our fire started in the kitchen, by a faulty Black and Decker toaster oven. The toaster oven switch mechanism failed, causing it to turn on, full hot.

Our house was a modified two story, with one half of the main level an open floor plan with a fifteen foot peak vaulted ceiling, and the other half a two story with eight foot ceilings. Since we kept the toaster oven stored under a wood shelf, after the oven turned on, the shelf ignited, then the cabinets above were ablaze. Before enough smoke filled the vaulted ceilings so that it would reach the main level hallway, the fire had grown out of control. Had we installed a smoke detector in that vault, who knows how things would have been different?

My advice, install alarms in kitchen areas if they are part of a common living space. If you tend to have nuisance alarms due to cooking, remove the alarm before you cook, and reinstall as soon as the smoke clears. Better yet, try to do a better job in the kitchen or order take out!

Once you have a plan and you have smoke detectors and the flashlights in place, you should really think about investing in some fire extinguishers. Be sure that you know and understand how to use them and what type works for the different kinds of fire. A basic search online can easily point you in the right direction there.

But to be honest, they are only to be used in the first moments after ignition, and then only if you are using the proper type of extinguisher for the type of fire that you have. Unless you are a trained firefighter, and even then sometimes a fire can grow far too violent very fast and fighting the fire can cause ones own death.

Once the fire grows out of control, it’s best to just get out and be safe! Just about everything in the house is replaceable – lives are not! Sure, there are pictures, trinkets, souvenirs, and other sentimental keepsakes that can be destroyed and never replaced, but they all pale in comparison to the life of a loved one who dies trying to save those material things by fighting the fire.
There are several obvious, common sense things that you can do to reduce the chance of having a house fire. Never leave candles burning unattended, nor fires in the fireplace, woodstove, etc. Always keep a close watch over the stovetop, oven or any other cooking opperation you have going on – the timer doesn’t count as a watchful eye! Never stack objects on or around energy consuming electrnics, particularly appliances that have ventilation grills on them such as stereos, TVs and computers. These ventilation grills are there for cooling – to prevent fires!

Do not overload your circuits. If you frequently pop a breaker or blow a fuse, you are either overloading the circuit, or there are problems with the wiring. Do not simply keep resetting the breaker or replacing the fuse. Figure out what the problem is. If you have the old style fuse box, you might want to consider upgrading to a modern breaker box. If that’s not in your budget, at least be sure that you are putting the appropriate size and rated fuses in. Never use a larger one or a penny, or slug. If you do this to eliminate the need for replacing blown fuses, you are eliminating the protection and increasing the potential for an electric fire.



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