Get out, stay out and call for help

Published 8:08 pm Friday, October 18, 2019

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There are several signs that signal the arrival of mid-October….our local farmers are “kicking up the dust” in their fields during harvest time; the leaves on our trees are slowly making the transition from green to a vivid display of red-orange-yellow; and the North Carolina State Fair got underway in Raleigh on Thursday of this week.

But there’s one other telltale sign…..falling temperatures, which typically signals the time when we switch off the AC units in our homes and turn on the heat. In doing so, we all need to ensure the safety of ourselves and our loved ones by following a few easy tips when it comes to fire safety.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, there were 1,319,500 fires reported across the United States in 2017 (the latest data available). In those blazes, 14,670 individuals suffered injuries. Meanwhile, 3,400 people lost their lives. That latter number reflects nearly a 10 percent increase in fire-related deaths over previous years.

The leading cause (51.6 percent) of residential fires across the nation in 2017 was cooking (kitchen fires), followed by heating related issues (9.1 percent), unintentional/carelessness (7.1 percent), and electrical malfunction (6.5 percent). Combined they caused $23 billion in property losses.

While not all fires can be prevented, we can do our part as homeowners or renters to lower the chance of becoming a statistic.

The American Red Cross (ARC) points out an important fact….did you know that if a fire starts in your home you may have as little as two minutes to escape? During a fire, early warning from a working smoke alarm plus a fire escape plan that has been practiced regularly can save lives.

The ARC stresses the need to install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and in other areas of the residence. They also suggest testing smoke alarms every month. If they’re not working, change the batteries.

Additionally, the ARC says talk with all family members about a fire escape plan and practice the plan twice a year.

While smoke alarms are designed to detect, not control, a fire, homeowners may want to consider investing in a sprinkler system, which complements the alarms’ work and providing a way to fight flames immediately.

Before the fire department can reach your home, sprinklers can prevent a blaze from spreading and even extinguish it. They can also decrease the chance that deadly smoke and gases will reach your family.

A cheaper alternative is purchasing several fire extinguishers, placing them in readily available areas inside your home as well as in any outbuildings on your property.

With the costs associated with home heating, some will use alternative methods to provide warmth. They come with their own set of dangers….such as portable space heaters – electrical and kerosene – fireplaces, and woodstoves. Using an ounce of sensible caution with these alternative devices will prevent injury/death/property loss.

And, finally, if your home does catch fire, GET OUT, STAY OUT and CALL FOR HELP. Never go back inside for anything or anyone.

– The Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald