Let me simply start this one off with a personal plea – please folks, can we just stop the madness? – – Jan 13th Huntsville, AL – 2 dead (3 year old, adult) 6 year old badly burnt – Jan 11th Birmingham, AL – 1 dead (59) – Jan 12th Andalusia, AL – 2 Dead –
In just this last week in Alabama, we have had at least 6 families houses destroyed, 2 individuals seriously burnt, 3 others injured and at least 7 people died due to fire. While some of these are still under investigation, two things jump out in almost each story besides the pure senselessness – space heaters being listed as the cause & not one mention of smoke detectors alerting anyone. The worst one “The first thing I heard was Natalie come in the room and say ‘Mommy, mommy fire!'”
Seriously folks, as a company that specialized in insurance renovations and that loves getting people back into their houses & on with their lives, we really wish that it were not necessary. The sad fact is in many cases of fire, not only will it be hard for some of them to get on with their lives, but they are going to always be kicking themselves on how easily preventable it was with just a little maintenance &/or using some common sense. Instead of just passing on some of the usual tips, I am also including some down on your luck advice, and a few thoughts on helping others.
The Usual Advice:
I am not going to spend much time on the usual advice, as almost everyone knows the mantra & if not more info can be found by following the links listed:
- Test your smoke detectors monthly (Smoke Detector Primer inc. links to choosing, placement)
- Change the batteries in January & July (January Maintenance & Safety Checklist)
- Do not to run a space heater overnight (“Everything we owned” article)
- Do not place anything on or have anything within 3’ of the heater
The times are tough advice:
Folks, I realize times are tough and in some cases, you have no choice but to use a space heater to stay warm. That said, most newer electric ones are quite safe, but you still need to make sure they are not in an area where they can be knocked over, and keeping flammable materials away from them (yes that includes your shoes, or gloves you want to dry off). Kerosene, Propane, and older electric heaters should never be used overnight, or when you are out of the house and if possible, they should simply be replaced. With all that said, we would like to remind everyone of the Weatherization program meant to help people not only get their house weatherized, lower energy costs, but in some cases they might be able to help fix items like the furnace.
Now while times are tough, there really is no reason not to have at least one working smoke detector in the house. If you have one in your house that is less than 5 years old, make sure you test it monthly & replace the 9-volt battery every 6 months. (If it has a sealed battery – it will generally outlast the units operational life – but you still have to test it) Ok, so what happens if you do not have a smoke detector or need a new battery? In many cases, one can find a dollar for a new battery (coach cushions) or can come up with $10 (or $20 for a better one). If one cannot find the money, you might try contacting your local Community Action Group (See weatherization article above – towards the bottom), charity, or church. You may also contact your local fire department, as some do hand smoke detectors out, or may know of a charity that does.
I am sure many of you know a person, or happen to be an individual that would rather pull out a tooth than ask for help or even directions. Well, the same goes for most older people, and even younger people starting out (especially if they do not know any better). If you happen to be following the “check on elderly” when it gets really cold or hot out, see if they will let you test their smoke detector, or replace the battery if they have not. While you are at church, you might ask to see if they mind you stopping by to see how everything is going. Trust me; I think you will make their day in many cases. For those of you with aging parents in another state, county, (or you just don’t have the time or desire) there are plenty of companies that offer varying maintenance programs to make sure these maintenance tasks are completed. Quite honestly, I rather ask and be turned away, instead of being left saying – if I had only known, or they would have said something…
Additional Info & Websites:
Tool Box Talk: OSHA’s Fire Protection & Prevention Plan
Monthly Maintenance Tasks for Home
Common wintertime fire causes & prevention
Primer on Smoke Detectors – Available Options – Placement
Stopping a Killer – Carbon Monoxide