Keep your home and family safe from fire
Assistant Fire Chief Scott Michael from the South Morgan Volunteer Fire Company had some tips for area residents to keep their homes and families safe from fire.
Michael advised people to have dishwashers and other appliances installed by certified electricians. He's heard a lot of horrible wiring stories where homeowners did their own work.
Household current outlets are 110 volts. Michael cautioned that 110 volts could kill you, although many people think it won't. It's the amp load that can be lethal, he said.
When you buy appliances and tools, it's wise to fill out the warranty cards and product registration cards and send them in, said Michael.
With most products, you can do this online now as part of the recall process, he said. You may get an e-mail, a phone call or a card in the mail that lets you know if there is a recall on a product or vehicle you have purchased.
Michael noted that there was a recent recall issued on a tower fan. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled around 300,000 Holmes HT30 Oscillating Tower Fans.
The white home tower fans are about three feet tall and four inches wide, said Michael. Electrical arcing in the fan's wiring could cause a fire. The Holmes Company has had 16 reports of property damage and one injury with minor burns and smoke inhalation.
The fans were made in China and were sold at Target, Bed Bath and Beyond and other department and specialty stores nationwide from July 2002 until June 2005 for around $30. If you have one of these fans, call The Holmes Group at (800) 524-9204 or go to www.holmesfanrecall.com.
You can stay informed on the latest recalls at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's website at www.cpsc.gov.
Liquid detergents flammable
Many people don't realize that liquid detergent is flammable, said Michael. Some families buy huge pails of liquid detergent that can readily catch fire if nearby appliances ignite, he said.
Often people will keep liquid detergent and cleaning products on shelves right above their washers and dryers, said Michael. Aerosol cans stored on that shelf can explode when heated by flames.
Michael recommended using less liquid detergent than called for because of its flammability from the animal extracts used in the manufacturing process. Prolonged skin contact with liquid detergent can also give symptoms to people with allergies.
Periodic appliance cleaning
Appliances like dryers and refrigerators should have maintenance cleaning done to them a couple times a year, said Michael. Hardware stores have a dryer cleaning kit that cleans out the lint, he said.
You can also vacuum out the lint using a long vacuum cleaner attachment wand. The compartment itself should also be cleaned and the access panels taken off, said Michael.
Call for help immediately
Call 911 immediately if you see smoke in your home, said Michael. People often don't call for help soon enough, he said.
So many things could happen if someone tries to fight the fire alone. They could become unconscious from smoke inhalation or go into shock from being critically burned, said Michael.
Fire departments are equipped with thermal guns that help them pinpoint where the fire is located in a structure. Responders would rather deal with a fire in its initial stages than come later to fight a full-fledged house fire.
"The longer you wait, the worse it's going to get. It's easier to check it early," said Michael.
WV: Fires at a glance
Michael shared some information from the WV State Fire Marshal's Office. Heating, cooking, open flames/embers, electrical distribution and appliances and arson were the five leading causes of fires in West Virginia from July 1, 2005 to June 30, 2006.
West Virginia fire departments reported 3,997 structure fires. Some 2,778 of those fires were residential. There were also 1,405 vehicle fires and 2,544 outdoor fires during that time. Total estimated combined property and content losses were $348,477,700, according to information on the website www.wvfiremarshal.org.
Most fires occurred between November and April, which is when heating appliances are most used
According to a report by Deputy State Fire Marshal Carol Nolte, smoke detectors were present in only 30% of the 2005-2006 residential fires and no detectors were found in 40% of fires. In 30% of residential fires, it was undetermined if smoke detectors were present.
In the cases where smoke detectors were present, some 62% of those smoke detectors operated. In 15% of the cases they failed to operate and in 7% the fire was too small to be detected. In 16% of the fires, whether the smoke detector was operating could not be determined.
Smoke & carbon monoxide detectors
Homes should have working smoke detectors on each level and one in each bedroom. Fire departments check smoke detectors after a fire if a home isn't too damaged, said Michael. So many times they find the base of the smoke detector but not the outer casing or batteries, he said. Other times they'll find the battery missing with the lid in place.
Often people remove the battery and casing because the smoke detector starts chirping, said Michael. The chirping means the battery is bad or low if it's a battery-run unit.
No home should be without smoke detectors, said Michael. Some insurance companies will provide them to customers, he said.
Homes that have any kind of fuel-burning appliance such as a wood stove, gas heater or oil heater should also have a carbon monoxide detector, said Michael. They are also good to have in the garage if it is attached to the home. Carbon monoxide can seep into the house from a car idling in the garage.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that a carbon monoxide alarm be placed near every sleeping area in every home. Batteries should be tested and replaced regularly.