Fire Prevention Week involves more than just checking the batteries in your smoke alarms, but smoke alarms should be near the top of your list. Here are some other things that should be checked.
(1) Smoke Alarms - If they are 10 years old, replace the smoke alarms. If less than 10 years old, test them and change batteries. Check the Date of Manufacture, not Date of Install to determine age. Also make sure that you have enough throughout the house on all levels. Place them inside every bedroom and outside of every sleeping area. Check with your Local Fire dept if you're not sure. Most electriacians are familiar with codes and placement as well. They should aslo be placed at bottom of stairs in basements, as well as on main level at least 12' away from stoves, ovens, fireplaces, and woodstoves. They should be placed on ceilings or high on the walls. If you're installing new, ask about having them interconnected, so if the basement alarm goes off, they all go off. If you're sleeping on the 3rd level, and basement alarm goes off, this will alert everyone in the house if they are interconnected.
(2) Carbon Monoxide Detectors - These should also be less than 10 years old, but usually you only need 1-3 of these installed. Basement and Main Level mainly, but sometimes one on upper level.
(3) Fireplaces & Woodstoves - These should be inspected annually. That includes all pipes, connections, chimneys. A Chimney Sweep is usually best for this. If cleaning is needed, they can do that, plus they can point out any defects that you should consider having done, like cracks in mortar joints or flue liners, etc.
(4) Generators- Do not run a generator inside of your house or garage. Every year people die from doing that. Before you buy a generator, check with your electrician to determine your needs. Different size homes require different size generators.
(5) Space Heaters - Check them now if you use them. These are another common cause of house fires and deaths every year. Check the cords, and designate a safe place to set them in whatever rooms you use them in. Make sure kids know not to throw clothes on the floor near space heaters.
(6) Outdoor Grills - many people cook out throughout the winter. Keep grills a safe distance away from house. If you grill on your deck, consider putting a fireproof material on deck to set grill on. Also, if you have vinyl siding, keep grills as far away from siding as possible. I've seen numerous townhouses with warped and melted vinyl siding due to people setting grills too close to house.
(7) Mulch- Outside, avoid piling mulch too thick or too close to house. Fires in mulch have started from someone throwing down a cigarette. It can also spontaneously combust. A mulch fire can lead to a house fire.
(8) Ashes- Dispose of ashes properly. A metal container is best. Don't set them inside of your garage or out on your deck right after you clean out your fireplace or woodstove. Set the container out in yard for a day or two. Putting ashes in a plastic bucket or cardboard box is another common cause of house fires.
Well, I hope these tips help someone, and reduce the chances of house fires this winter. They only will help if you do them. If you can't afford enough smoke detectors, check with your local Fire Dept. Almost every Fire Dept will be glad to do a safety inspection for you, and many will provide free smoke alarms. Best to call them now instead of later.
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