What you don’t know about fire safety

Guest Column

(Right) Fire Prevention Chief John Trottman, Fire and Emergency Services

Ever since we were little, we have been taught about fire safety.

We learned about Stop, Drop, and Roll; Get Out, Stay Out; Crawl Low Under Smoke; and Change Your Clocks, Change Your Batteries.

These are messages that have stuck with us since we participated in our first fire drills.

But what fire safety messages have you never been told? What are you doing today that may be putting you or your family in jeopardy? Just how safe are you in your home? Let’s find out.

Most people know they are supposed to change their batteries every time they change their clocks — at the beginning and end of daylight saving time.

But did you know that new smoke detectors have 10-year sealed batteries that don’t need to be changed? In January, Maryland law will require all new smoke detectors to have sealed long-life batteries. So you won’t have to worry about your detector anymore, right? WRONG!

Did you know that smoke detectors should be vacuumed monthly to prevent the buildup of dust and cobwebs? This will help eliminate those pesky false alarms at 2 in the morning.

Also, detectors are only good for 10 years from the date of manufacture. If your detector is over 10 years old, it might not sound an alarm if there is a fire in your home. That defeats the purpose of having it in the first place.

Check your detectors to make sure they are less than 10 years old and have working batteries. Test your detector monthly to make sure it has an audible alarm.

In newer construction, the detectors are tied together. So if one goes off, they should all go off. Does yours?

Do you sleep with your bedroom door open? Do you allow your children to? If there is a fire in your home, an open door will allow smoke and deadly gasses to fill your room quickly, confusing you and making it harder to escape a fire.

In addition, the open door will provide a direct path for the heat to enter your room, making it unbearable. Underwriters Laboratories conducted tests on the effects of closed doors and found that a solid-core wooden door will keep the majority of heat and smoke from entering a room for approximately 10 minutes.

Even a cheap, hollow-core door was able to provide protection for almost five minutes. Those five minutes could make a world of difference if you are trying to survive a fire. Remember to “Close Before You Doze.” Or for those of you who are loud sleepers, “Close Your Door Before You Snore.”

Carbon monoxide, also known as CO, is an odorless, colorless gas that kills hundreds of people every year and causes thousands to seek medical treatment. It is produced whenever something doesn’t burn cleanly. In homes, CO is most often found at gas appliances such as water heaters, dryers, stoves and furnaces.

CO also can be produced by space heaters, wood stoves and fire places. Carbon monoxide attaches to your blood and keeps it from getting oxygen. The result is that you will suffocate even while breathing.

You can’t see or smell carbon monoxide, so you have to have a detector to know it’s present. Carbon monoxide detectors are relatively cheap and easy to install.

Carbon monoxide has a similar density as air and mixes easily with it. Since most gas-producing appliances are on the first floor or basement of homes, that’s a good place to install a CO detector.

A carbon monoxide detector on the second floor ceiling of a two story home may not be effective. Why? By the time the CO has moved from the first floor appliance to the second floor ceiling, the entire house would be filled with carbon monoxide. You want to know there is a problem before it gets to that point.

Battery-powered detectors should be cleaned and tested just like smoke detectors to ensure they are working properly.

Last week was National Fire Prevention Week. Hopefully, you had the opportunity to learn about and implement these and other fire prevention tips to keep you and your family safe. There’s more to know!

As always, your Fort Meade Fire and Emergency Services is available to assist you.

Team Meade!

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