October is fire prevention month

The best way to protect your family and your home from fire is to plan ahead and reduce potential fire hazards.

Nearly two million fires are reported each year in the U.S. resulting in more than 4,000 deaths and nearly 20,000 more injured according to the U.S. Fire Administration. While attention is focused on fire prevention this month, Michigan State University Extension has tips you can use and action you should take every month to reduce the chance of a fire in your home or workplace.

At home:

Install smoke detectors on every level in the home. Test them monthly to make sure they are working. 60 percent of house fires where death occurred happened in homes without working smoke detectors.

Prevent electrical fires. Check cords, plugs and outlets regularly. Poor connection between a plug and the outlet can cause overheating which could result in a fire. Reduce the use of extension cords and do not overload them with plugs.

Check the dryer vent regularly. Clothes dryers are a frequent cause of fires in homes due to lint build up. In addition to checking the lint screen in the dryer, which should be cleaned before or after each load, check the exhaust duct between the back of the dryer and the outside. It should be made of metal not plastic or aluminum and be cleaned semi-annually with a good quality vent brush to prevent any build up or blockage.

Make sure alternate heating sources, such as portable heaters, have at least three feet of space around them. Also, if you use a fireplace or wood stove, check the chimney for creosote buildup. This build up, over time, can accumulate and heat up during use and cause a chimney fire. When using a fireplace, always use a fire screen to prevent sparks from jumping out and landing on combustible material.

Plan an escape route from every room in the house. And practice these routes with every member of the family on a regular basis. Remember, fire is dark. After the initial flames, a fire quickly develops black smoke which results in complete darkness. It is easy to become disoriented in a home you have lived in and unable to find your way out. Train all family members to stay low to the floor while practicing their escape and check doors for heat by using the back of their hand. Keep halls and stairways free of clutter to prevent falls. You may have less than two minutes to escape if a fire starts in your home.

Finally, with the holidays fast approaching, take precautions with all your decorations. Check light strings for any damage. If any are frayed or have exposed wires, throw them away. Don’t string together more lights than recommended by the manufacturer. Keep lights away from any flammable material. Use candles sparingly and keep away from anything combustible and never leave a room with a candle burning. Remember, a small flame can go completely out of control in less than thirty seconds.

Many of these same tips are applicable in the workplace also. By eliminating potential fire hazards, keeping all electrical cords in good condition and preparing for emergencies, many potential fires can be avoided.

So far in 2015, there have been 1772 home fire fatalities down two percent from the same time period in 2014. Seniors, 65 and older, represent 29 percent of all fire fatalities. In addition, seventy fire fighters have lost their lives while fighting a fire throughout the country so far this year.

For more information on fire prevention, contact your local fire department or visit one of these sites:

For a fire safety checklist visit the Fire Administration website.

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