ALACHUA COUNTY, FL - Since the beginning of November, 2010, the Alachua County Department of Public Safety (ACDPS) has responded to several fires that were (likely) caused by common cold weather hazards. ACDPS is reminding residents to be safe and use caution when heating homes.
For the best chance of surviving a fire, homes should have at least one working smoke alarm per level and outside the sleeping areas. Having just changed the clocks, all smoke alarm batteries should have been changed as well. Smoke alarms should be tested monthly to have a reasonable assurance they will function properly when needed. In addition to working smoke alarms, each family should have a home escape plan. The plan should include two ways out of each room, a meeting place, and a method to call 9-1-1 once outside the home. The plan should be practiced so everyone knows what to do before the emergency.
Common Fire Hazards include:
· Candles- Never leave a room with a burning candle. To keep the flame down, make sure the wick stays trimmed to ¼ inch. The candle should be on a sturdy surface away from any combustible materials. It is recommended to keep a safe clear zone of 18-24 inches away from a burning candle.
· Space Heaters- Do not use extension cords with electric space heaters. They should have a functioning safety “tip over” switch that will turn it off or turn the heating element off when it is tipped over. Always keep safe and clear zone of 3 feet around any space heaters including any furniture. Never leave a space heater on in an unoccupied room or while sleeping. For fuel space heaters, never fuel it when the heater is on or still hot. The vapors from the fuel can ignite quickly and violently. Make sure the proper fuel is being used in the space heater and never fuel it inside or close to the home in case of a fuel spill.
· Fireplaces- Keep the chimney clean. They should be cleaned annually depending on amount of use. Always use a screen or door to keep the embers from escaping and catching combustibles on fire. Use a listed flame rated pad or non-combustible surface in front of the fireplace. Make sure the fire is completely out before going to bed. A smoldering fire can produce carbon monoxide which is an dangerous, odorless and colorless gas.
· Cooking- Never leave food cooking on the stove unattended. Keep dangling cloths, curtains and other combustibles away from the stove. Make sure the stove is off before going to bed. Turn pot handles in so small children cannot grab them. Always be particularly cautious with children living in the home.
"With your attention to some of these basic fire safety tips the chances of experiencing a fire in your home can be significantly reduced." says ACDPS Fire Marshall, Mark Smith.
For more information, contact the Alachua County Department of Public Safety at 352-384-3101.