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Ohio Department of Aging Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

My Family - January 2010

Don't Get Burned
Protect Your Loved Ones from Common Fire Hazards

Fire has been an important part of all cultures and religions, from pre-history to modern day. It was vital to the development of civilization and we've used fire as a tool for millennia. Today, fire adds an air of romance to a candle-lit dinner or cozy warmth in front of a fireplace. We cook with it and fire, in one form or another, is the main way we heat our homes.

For all its usefulness, fire can be frightening, dangerous and, at times, lethal.Yet, for all its usefulness, fire can be frightening, dangerous and, at times, lethal. It can consume your house, your belongings and your loved ones. Statistics show that children and the elderly are at increased risk of dying as a result of a house fire. If you have either living with you in your home, planning ahead and getting rid of fire hazards will give you and them precious peace of mind.

The best defense against a deadly house fire is to have working smoke detectors installed in several rooms, particularly sleeping areas, and on every floor of your home. For as little as $7 each, smoke alarms can cut nearly in half the risk of dying in a fire. Smoke alarms sense abnormal amounts of smoke or invisible combustion gases in the air and can detect both smoldering and flaming fires. But having them is only part of the solution; they must always have fresh batteries (install a fresh set each year) and be tested regularly (at least once a month). Smoke alarms wear out over time, so replace yours if it is 10 years old or older.

Once you have the reassurance that you and your family will be alerted if a fire starts in your home, focus on things you can do to prevent a fire from starting in the first place:

  • Make sure the only thing you cook is food. Turn handles of pots and pans toward the back of the stove to avoid accidentally knocking them over. Do not leave anything unattended on the stove, even for just a minute. Do not wear loose-fitting clothing around the stove and keep towels, potholders and paper away from hot surfaces. Use the oven and stove only to cook - do not use them to heat your home.
  • Watch your butts. If you smoke, use deep-seated ashtrays on steady surfaces. Never smoke while lying down, when tired or when taking medications that cause drowsiness. Keep lighters, matches and lit cigarettes out of the reach of small children.
  • Heat your spaces responsibly. If you use electric space heaters, be sure the electrical cords and plugs are in good condition and only plug them directly into an outlet rated to carry the load. Do not plug electric heaters into extension cords or outlet strips. If you heat with a fireplace or heating stove, check that the fireplace flues are clear and use a screen to deflect sparks. Keep combustible materials like blankets, curtains and clothing at least three feet away from any heat sources.

Now that you have a warning system in place and have eliminated common risks, you need to have a plan for what you will do if a fire does start in your home. Talk to everyone in your home about what to do and identify escape routes out of every room. Review safety steps like checking closed doors for heat before opening and crawling on the floor below the smoke. Remind everyone that the first priority is to save people, not property - the time it takes to retrieve that thing you don't think you can live without, could be the difference between life and death. Call 9-1-1 from a neighbor's home or other safe location. Once you are out of a burning building, do not go back in for any reason. If someone is missing, tell the firefighters. They are equipped to perform rescues safely.