Well, it’s that time of year when we start up our furnaces and have fires in the fireplace. So now would be a good time to talk about fire safety.  Each year we have thousands of fires and many deaths. There are multiple reasons for people not surviving fires. One thing to remember is that most people do not pass away because of the fire itself, they pass away because of the fumes, the Carbon Monoxide.  Carbon Monoxide blocks your lungs from getting oxygen into your body.  So let’s start with smoke detectors

There are two type of smoke detectors – Ionization and Photoelectric detectors.  Wikipedia is a good source of information for these two types of detectors.   The main point is that you should have them installed in your home.  If you don’t have them installed, stop reading this and go down to your local hardware store and buy some, then come back and you can keep reading this article.  Oh, you all ready have them, well have you tested them within the 6 months?  If not, stop reading this and go test them out.  If you have them, and have tested them within the last six months, you may proceed reading this.

It may seem like over kill to install a lot of smoke detectors, but we’re talking about your life and your families lives.  You should install a detector in the basement and attic.  You also need to install one detector in every bedroom and you should have one outside in the hallway, best if you can do this at the top of each stairwell.  Always place the detector on the ceiling about 1ft away from the wall.

As noted above you should test your detector every six months minimum and replace the batteries every year, even if they are still working.  There are two ways to test your alarm.  First you can press the test button to make sure the batteries work.  The second way it to light a match, blow it out, then pass the burned out match under the detector to make sure it picks up the smoke detection.

Another important step in keeping safe is to close the doors at night when you are sleeping, this helps protect you and slows down the spread of fire.  If you have to leave because of a fire, close the door behind you.  Always make sure you have an escape route.  Each person needs two routes, in case one is blocked by fire, so you have an alternative.  Also, have a meeting place so everyone can be accounted for.

If a fire does occur and you can not get out, you should also have a plan.  First stay calm.  Second, stay close to the ground.  Third, don’t hide.  Adults can be like dogs, while kids can be like cats.  Kids tend to hide in a fire.  You should educate your children that if for some reason they can not get out to stay close to the ground and up against a wall.  If they can be against a perimeter wall , not under a window, but close to a window, this will help in their rescue.  Firefighters will do a primary search of the building and they use the walls as reference, so they will have an easier time finding someone next to a wall.

If a small fire does start and you are aware of it, you can use a fire extinguisher to put it out.  You should always have a couple on hand.  Maybe one in the kitchen, garage, basement and your workshop.  Keep them accessible.  Just like smoke detectors, you need to check the fire extinguisher to make sure the pressure is OK.

1. In the picture above, you will see a gauge (Click the picture to enlarge).  Make sure the needle is in the green.

2. Make sure your fire extinguisher is right for your application.  There is an A,B,C,D.  As you can see with this one, it is a combination of A,B,C.

  • A – Wood and trash
  • B – Liquids
  • C – Electrical
  • D – Metals

Fire extinguishers have directions on them.  Make sure your read them and understand them.  Most of them, you just pull the pin, point the fire extinguisher and spray.  Aim at the base of the fire to quickly put it out.  If for some reason you can not put the fire out or have other problems, leave and shut the door behind you, then call the fire department.

One last item.  Try to seal the crack or opening between floors as this will help stop the spread of fire and smoke.  Fire tends to crawl up these areas and spread quickly.  A fire will double every minute.  Older homes have what is called balloon construction. In these houses fire can spread rather quickly if it gets in the wall.