May 15th, 2012
Preparing a special meal for friends and family, especially around the holidays, is a time-honored and much loved tradition. But cooking equipment, most often a range or stovetop, is the leading cause of reported home fires and home fire injuries in the United States according to the US Fire Administration. Before you begin preparing your next meal, stop and think about the simple ways you can reduce your risk of becoming a statistic. Follow these simple tips for safe cooking:
- Avoid cooking if you’ve been drinking alcohol or are taking medication or other substances that can cause drowsiness. The kitchen is no place to be if your judgment and ability to focus are impaired.
- Keep potholders, dish towels and oven mitts away from the stovetop, heating elements or open flames. And remember, they must be dry to protect your hands, so replace wet or soiled items immediately.
- Always keep the handles of pots or pans on your stovetop pointed away from the front edge of the stovetop. You will be less likely to bump into them and children less likely to reach them. Use the back burners instead of front ones whenever possible.
- Talking on the phone, watching your favorite television program and other distractions can lead to trouble in the kitchen. Stay focused on the task at hand.As eager as young cooks may be to help prepare or serve food, they are safer away from the kitchen.
- Consider making your kitchen a child-free zone during busy holiday times or allow children to help only when you can focus on them completely and all heat sources are off/cool to the touch. Keep pets out of the kitchen, too.
- Setting a timer is a good idea when your dish is baking inside the oven. Not only will you avoid overdone meals, but that friendly “ding!” reminds you to stay alert and engaged in the food preparation process.
Fire! Now what?
Most important, remain calm if a fire occurs in your kitchen. With your emotions under control, you are more likely to manage the situation effectively. Here’s the best plan of action:
- For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the oven door closed.
- For a microwave fire, turn off the power and keep the unit’s door closed.
- For a stovetop fire, cover the burning pan with a tight-fitting lid or cookie sheet larger than the pan to smother the fire.
- Never use water in an attempt to douse the flames, as it might actually spread the fire.
- Never use a fire extinguisher to extinguish a grease fire – you actually may spread the fire if you get too close. Instead, smother the flames by carefully sliding a lid or cookie sheet over the pan (make sure you are wearing an oven mitt). Turn off the stove if you can safely do so, or turn off the circuit breaker or gas valve.”
- If you can’t immediately put out the fire with these steps, then take decisive action and leave your home immediately, and close all doors behind you to slow the spread of the fire.
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April 25th, 2012
United Spinal Association has developed a free online training program designed to save the lives of individuals with disabilities and mobility impairments during fire emergencies.
“When utilizing this fire safety training program, you are taking a significant step to ensure that people with disabilities and all stakeholders are aware of the important features found in buildings designed and built in conformance with widely adopted codes and standards developed to protect people with disabilities in the event of an emergency,” said Kleo King, senior vice president of Accessibility Services at United Spinal Association.
The training program created with funding assistance from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation is available for download in both English and Spanish here.
It focuses on the unique aspects of fire safety for people with disabilities, what to do in case a fire occurs and reviews life safety requirements (i.e., areas of refuge, wide exit stairs, means of egress elevators and exterior areas of assisted rescue) found in the International Building Code.
The training program is a valuable resource to people with disabilities, fire safety and building code officials, emergency plan coordinators, building owners and supervisors, employers and fire marshals.
Also included are tips on fire prevention and contact information for several organizations that may be of assistance on this topic.
For more information, please visit www.unitedspinal.org or call 1.800.404.2898 #7504 to request hard copies of the training materials for your organization.
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January 18th, 2012
With so many fire extinguishers to choose from, selecting the proper one for your home can be a daunting task. Everyone should have at least one fire extinguisher at home, but it’s just as important to ensure you have the proper type of fire extinguisher. Fire protection experts recommend one for the kitchen, the garage and workshop.
Fire extinguishers are divided into four categories, based on different types of fires. Each fire extinguisher also has a numerical rating that serves as a guide for the amount of fire the extinguisher can handle. The higher the number, the more fire-fighting power. The following is a quick guide to help choose the right type of extinguisher.
- Class A extinguishers are for ordinary combustible materials such as paper, wood, cardboard, and most plastics. The numerical rating on these types of extinguishers indicates the amount of water it holds and the amount of fire it can extinguish. Geometric symbol (green triangle)
- Class B fires involve flammable or combustible liquids such as gasoline, kerosene, grease and oil. The numerical rating for class B extinguishers indicates the approximate number of square feet of fire it can extinguish. Geometric symbol (red square)
- Class C fires involve electrical equipment, such as appliances, wiring, circuit breakers and outlets. Never use water to extinguish class C fires – the risk of electrical shock is far too great! Class C extinguishers do not have a numerical rating. The C classification means the extinguishing agent is non-conductive. Geometric symbol (blue circle)
- Class D fire extinguishers are commonly found in a chemical laboratory. They are for fires that involve combustible metals, such as magnesium, titanium, potassium and sodium. These types of extinguishers also have no numerical rating, nor are they given a multi-purpose rating – they are designed for class D fires only. Geometric symbol (Yellow Decagon)
- Class K fire extinguishers are for fires that involve cooking oils, trans-fats, or fats in cooking appliances and are typically found in restaurant and cafeteria kitchens. Geometric symbol (black hexagon)
Some fires may involve a combination of these classifications. Your fire extinguishers should have ABC ratings on them.
For more information about the use of fire extinguishers, view:
Fire Safety Tips for Your Workplace
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January 13th, 2012
A chimney fire in action can be impressive. It has been described variously as creating loud cracking and popping noises, a lot of dense smoke and an intense, hot smell. Chimney fires can burn explosively – noisy and dramatic enough to be detected by neighbors or people passing by. Flames or dense smoke may shoot from the top of the chimney. Homeowners report being startled by a low rumbling sound that reminds them of a freight train or a low flying airplane. However, those are only the chimney fires you know about.
Slow-burning chimney fires don’t get enough air or have fuel to be dramatic or visible. But, the temperatures they reach are very high and can cause as much damage to the chimney structure – and nearby combustible parts of the house – as their more spectacular cousins. With proper chimney system care, chimney fires are entirely preventable.
When chimney fires occur in masonry chimneys, the high temperatures at which they burn (around 2000°F) can melt mortar, crack tiles, cause liners to collapse and damage the outer masonry material. Most often, tiles crack and mortar is displaced, which provides a pathway for flames to reach the combustible wood frame of the house. One chimney fire may not harm a home. A second can burn it down. Pre-fabricated, factory-built, metal chimneys. To be installed in most jurisdictions in the United States, factory built, metal chimneys that are designed to vent wood burning stoves or pre-fabricated metal fireplaces must pass special tests determined by Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL). Most tests require the chimney to withstand flue temperatures up to 2100°F – without sustaining damage. Under chimney fire conditions, damage to these systems still may occur. When pre-fabricated, factory-built metal chimneys are damaged by a chimney fire, they should no longer be used and must be replaced.
For more information on chimney fires, view:
Creosote Chimney Fires – What You Must Know.
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December 26th, 2011
Fireplaces and wood stoves are designed to safely contain wood-fuel fires, while providing heat for a home. The chimneys that serve them have the job of expelling the byproducts of combustion – the substances produced when wood burns. These include smoke, water vapor, gases, unburned wood particles, hydrocarbon volatile, tar fog and assorted minerals. As these substances exit the fireplace or wood stove, and flow up into the relatively cooler chimney, condensation occurs.
The resulting residue that sticks to the inner walls of the chimney is called creosote. Creosote is black or brown in appearance. It can be crusty and flaky…tar-like, drippy and sticky…or shiny and hardened. Often, all forms will occur in one chimney system. Whatever form it takes, creosote is highly combustible. If it builds up in sufficient quantities – and catches fire inside the chimney flue instead of the firebox of the fireplace or wood stove – the result will be a chimney fire. Although any amount of creosote can burn, sweeps are concerned when creosote builds up in sufficient quantities to sustain a long, hot, destructive chimney fire. Certain conditions encourage the buildup of creosote. Simply put, restricted air supply, unseasoned wood and cooler-than normal chimney temperatures are all factors that can accelerate the buildup of creosote on chimney flue walls.
Air supplies on fireplaces may be restricted by closed glass doors or by failure to open the damper wide enough to move heated smoke up the chimney rapidly (the longer the smoke’s “residence time” in the flue, the more likely is it that creosote will form). A wood stove’s air supply can be limited by closing down the stove damper or air inlets too soon and too much, and by improperly using the stovepipe damper to restrict air movement. Burning unseasoned wood – because so much energy is used initially just to drive off the water trapped in the cells of the logs– keeps the resulting smoke cooler, as it moves through the system, than if dried seasoned wood is used. In the case of wood stoves, fully packed loads of wood (that give large cool fires and 8 or 10 hour burn times) also contribute to creosote buildup. Cool flue temperatures speed creosote production, too. Condensation of the unburned byproducts of combustion occurs more rapidly in an exterior chimney, for example, than in a chimney that runs through the center of a house and exposes only the upper reaches of the flue to the elements.
For more safety tips on fire places, click here.
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December 23rd, 2011
The winter holidays are a time for celebration, and that means more cooking, home decorating, entertaining, and an increased risk of fire due to heating equipment. Remember the following safety tips to keep you and your family safe this holiday season.
- Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the U.S. When cooking for holiday visitors, remember to keep an eye on the range.
- Provide plenty of large, deep ashtrays for guests who smoke and check them frequently. Cigarette butts can smolder in the trash and cause a fire, so completely douse cigarette butts with water before discarding.
- After a party, always check on, between and under upholstery and cushions and inside trashcans for cigarette butts that may be smoldering.
- Keep matches and lighters up high, out of sight and reach of children (preferably in a locked cabinet). When smokers visit your home, ask that they keep smoking materials with them.
- Any string of lights with worn, frayed or broken cords or loose bulb connections should not be used.
- Always unplug Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to sleep.
- Never use lit candles to decorate a tree, and place them well away from tree branches.
- Try to keep live trees as moist as possible by giving them plenty of water daily. Do not purchase a tree that is dry or dropping needles.
- Choose a sturdy tree stand designed not to tip over.
- When purchasing an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled as fire-retardant.
- Make sure the tree is at least three feet (one meter) away from any heat source and try to position it near an outlet so that cords are not running long distances.
- Do not place the tree where it may block exits.
- Safely dispose of the tree when it begins dropping needles. Dried-out trees are highly flammable and should not be left in a house or garage, or placed against the house.
For more holiday safety tips, click here.
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November 28th, 2011
We all love to keep warm through winter and aim to do so as cheaply and efficiently as possible. However we should not forget that each type of heat source carries it own type of risk.
Here are some helpful tips on how to keep you and your family safe this winter:
Matches and Lighters
||Keep all matches and lighters up high, out of the sight and reach of children.
||Teach children to take matches or lighters to an adult straight away.
||Only use child resistant lighters and safety matchbox holders.
||Child resistant lighters are not child proof!
||Check for frayed cords and other damage.
||Ensure your electric blanket is secured to your bed.
||Always turn off your electric blanket at the wall before getting into bed.
||Have blankets checked annually by a competent service person.
Gas Cabinet Heaters
||Don’t use in a confined space and always ensure there is adequate ventilation, for example never use a gas heater in a bedroom.
||Don’t leave anything too close to the heater; objects (including people) should be at least 1m away. Don’t dry clothes on these (or near any other open flames).
||Store and install cylinders in an upright position with the valve uppermost.
||Be careful when changing cylinders. Make sure the valve on the empty cylinder is turned off before disconnecting and the full cylinder is securely connected before turning on.
||For families with children or the elderly or infirm always use a gas heater guard.
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November 16th, 2011
Building a bonfire
Fire can spread easily, so where and how you build your bonfire is important. If you have a bonfire, follow these simple guidelines:
- only burn dry material not damp, which causes more smoke
- build the bonfire away from sheds, fences and trees
- check there are no cables – like telephone wires – above the bonfire
- don’t use petrol or paraffin to get the fire going – it may get out of control quickly
Bonfire safety tips
Once the bonfire is lit, make sure you:
- keep a bucket of water or a garden hose nearby - in case of emergencies
- don’t leave the bonfire unattended
- keep children and pets away from the bonfire
- don’t throw any fireworks into the fire
- don’t burn aerosols, canisters or anything containing foam or paint – many produce toxic fumes and some containers may explode, causing injury
Once the bonfire has died down, spray the embers with water to stop it reigniting.
For more on bonfire safety, click here.
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October 19th, 2011
As long as there has been wood to burn, man has used it to stay warm. Our predecessors who discovered fire had the edge on a renewable heating source that is not only cost-effective, but also an environmentally friendly way to heat the home.Still, many of today’s homeowners rely primarily on gas, propane and oil to heat their homes rather than looking to wood.
Here is some information about using wood to heat your home that may surprise you.
- Wood is environmentally friendly. It may seem that cutting down trees for fuel would be counterproductive to the “green” movement. However, trees are a renewable resource that, like other biomass, is carbon neutral. While growing, trees absorb carbon dioxide; when they die they release caron dioxide regardless of whether they burn or decompose. Fossil fuels by comparison are a one-way street, releasing greenhouse gasses in a matter of minutes that have been captured deep in the earth over millions of years.
- Wood can save money. When burning logs in the new generation of high efficiency hydronic furnaces (or wood boilers). The heat generated is more intense and little is lost up the chimney. Wood furnaces can be used in lieu of standard heating systems featuring gas or oil during the heating months, or as an add-on when homeowners prefer to use other heating sources as their primary method of heating. This reduced need for oil, propane and natural gas means a reduction in monthly heating bills.
- Wood can be a clean way to provide heat. There are plenty of people who have wrestled with cords of wood to stock wood-burning stoves or fireplaces, only to find that the mess left behind in the way of trailed bark and ashes leaves much to be desired. However, homeowners who use the next generation wood boilers will find that there is little to no mess involved.
- Wood is a safe heating method. Using a wood-fired furnace can be just as safe as any other traditional heating source. Just as with other furnaces, proper operating procedures should be followed.
For more information on furnaces and heating your home, view:
Winter Heating Safety Tips
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September 27th, 2011
As summer turns to fall, it’s a good idea to refresh your memory on fall fire safety tips. Some safety tips are the same regardless of the time of year, but many safety concerns are seasonal, particularly those that involve keeping your home warm.
Clearing water from sprinkler systems, getting the furnace fixed, and repairing damaged windows help to keep a home running through the winter months. Many people don’t realize that homes are at a greater risk of fire in the cooler months. The following fall fire safety tips can help home owners prepare their home and protect their families.
- Change the battery in smoke detectors when they changing your clocks during Daylight Savings. Changing the batteries every six months prevents detectors from going dead.
- If you have a chimney, clean it! Creosote is a deposit from smoke that can build up in a chimney and can start a fire.
- Space heaters can also be a fire hazard, it is recommended to create a safe area around the heater. Any furniture should be at least three feet away.
- Trees should be a minimum of 30 feet away from the house and branches and leaves should be cleaned up to limit fuel for a fire.
For more info on fire safety, check out:
Home Fire Sources at Its Worst
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