Fire prevention week and the Autumn season are good times to review a-few simple things that can help us keep our homes and families safe from fire.
As you may know, Fire Prevention Week was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, the tragic 1871 conflagration that killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres.
This year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign, “Don’t Wait – Check the Date! Replace Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years,” is designed to better educate the public about the critical importance of knowing how old their smoke alarms are and replacing them once they’re 10 years old.
A lot of people don’t realize that just like milk, credit cards, and coupons, smoke alarms have an expiration date. To find out how old your smoke alarm is and its expiration date, simply look on the back of the alarm where the date of manufacture is marked. The smoke alarm should be replaced 10 years from that date (not the date of purchase). Smoke alarms should also be tested monthly, and batteries should be replaced once a year or when they begin to chirp, signaling that they’re running low.
Our local Firefighters work hard to help people understand how to prevent fires. Fire prevention week is a time when fire departments across the Nation and the State organize educational events and activities that highlight their year-round commitment to fire safety. We recommend that people take part in these safety events or contact their local fire department to learn about additional ways to stay fire safe.
Additionally, As the weather starts to turn colder, the risk of fires increases significantly. Autumn is the beginning of the heating season and the busy holiday season, it’s a good time to make sure your family is safe and the heating equipment in your buildings and home are ready for upcoming Vermont winter.
To keep your family safe and warm, keep these safety points in mind.
- All heaters need space. Keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet away from heating equipment.
- Have a 3-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters. Supervise children whenever a wood or oil stove or other space heater is being used. Use a sturdy metal screen to prevent contact burns, which are more common than flame burns.
- Furnaces need to be inspected and serviced at least once a year by a qualified professional.
- Chimneys and vents need to be cleaned and inspected by a qualified professional at least once a year.
- Make sure fuel-burning equipment is vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Make sure the venting for exhaust is kept clear and unobstructed. This includes removal of snow and ice and other debris around the outlet to the outside.
- Allow ashes to cool before disposing of them. Place ashes in a tightly covered metal container and keep the ash container at least 10 feet away from the home and any other nearby buildings. Never empty the ash directly into a trash can or place ash cans on the wooden decks.
- Don’t forget to test and check smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms.
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Micheal D. Greenia is an Assistant State Fire Marshal and Chief of the Public Education & Information Section of the Vermont Division of Fire Safety. In his work he provides support services, technical assistance, educational resources to help fire departments, fire and life safety educators, and other community organizations address the fire prevention and safety education needs of Vermonters of all ages. He is a 30-year veteran of the fire service and in involved with numerous safety and fire prevention organizations, he also serves as a board member of Safe Kids Vermont.