Fire Prevention Week will be observed the week of Oct. 3-9, and my fellow firefighters around the nation and in the CSRA will be visiting schools and other sites in the community teaching the basics of fire safety and prevention.
The theme for this year's campaign is "It's Fire Prevention Week: Test Your Smoke Alarms."
Even though smoke alarms are now widely popular; it is still true that roughly 70 percent of home fire deaths result from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or with non-working alarms. The great majority of fatal fires occur between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m., and smoke alarms reduce the chance of dying in a fire by half. They should be installed on every level of a home, including the basement and outside the door of each separate sleeping area.
There are two main technologies of smoke detectors. One type, the photoelectric, uses a light beam inside the unit and when smoke enters, it cuts the beam and causes the alarm to sound. This type works best where there is large amounts of smoke, and therefore there is less nuisance alarms with it.
The other type of detector, ionization, utilizes a radioactive particle inside the detector that reacts to the electrical charge of smoke, which activates the alarm. This type will work best during the early stages of a fire. However, there are more nuisance alarms with it, which will sometimes cause the occupants of the residence to take out the battery rendering it inoperable. The problem with this is that if one forgets to put the battery back in, the detector won t work when it is needed.
Regardless of the type of detector that is in use, it should be tested and maintained once a month with smoke to ascertain that they really work. A small can of smoke check can be purchased from most hardware stores at a very reasonable price. Just pushing the button does not test the function of the detector; it only is testing that the battery is working. The battery should be changed twice a year when the time changes.
In addition, the life span of a detector is only 10 years. The photoelectric light bulb will only last about 10 years before it burns out, and the ionization detector has only enough radioactive material to last 10 years before it decays.
Be sure to keep the faceplate of the detector clean and free of dust so that it will not interfere with the smoke from a fire getting into the unit.
A fire can spread through your home rapidly. In fact, you may have as little as two minutes to escape safely once the smoke alarm sounds. In addition to maintaining your detectors, it is vital that families develop a basic home fire escape plan so everyone in the household knows what to do when the smoke alarms sounds. Choose an outside meeting place a safe distance from your home and practice your escape plan twice a year, making the drill as realistic as possible. You can go to any fire station and receive assistance in developing a plan for your home.
Each year, between 2,000 and 4,000 Americans die and more than 14,000 are critically injured due to fires. Our own community has had to endure the tragic loss of life the past couple of years due to home fires.
The fire service would like for you to be part of the fire safety and prevention effort. Test your smoke alarms and replace them if they are more than 10 years old. Develop a home fire escape plan and practice it at least twice a year. A five-hour fire safety course is conducted once a month at Doctors Hospital; reserve a spot to attend and learn more about fire safety.
Advance planning could mean the difference between a safe escape and tragedy.
CSRA Trauma Society
Fire Safety Educator
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