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Fire Prevention

Jennifer Bryan

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It's been a year since my daughter's basketball coach's family was affected by a house fire. They lost a husband and beloved father besides everything else they owned. This was not the first time I had been personally affected by a house fire.

As a child, I watched my friend's home burn to the ground leaving her, mom and her sisters homeless. Years ago, my niece had a classmate along with his entire family perish in a house fire over the Christmas holidays.

Early last year I couldn't sleep one night at around 3 am so I went to Wal-Mart. On my way home I noticed an odd glow behind the strip mall. My instincts told me to go and find out what it was. I had not heard or seen any emergency vehicles so I really assumed I would not find anything. As soon as I turned onto the road my heart sank. I frantically called 911 because the carport section to some apartments was on fire and it was quickly spreading to the apartments. It did not take them even a few minutes to arrive. I broke down and cried on the way home. There is no telling how long it would have taken for someone to discover the fire had I not trusted my instincts to turn away from my destination.

It was also last summer that near where I had lived I watched the LifeForce helicopter take away a toddler who succumbed to his injuries from an apartment fire he had started. While his mother was tending to younger siblings he got a hold of a lighter.

Most of the stories I hear on the news, online, or in the newspaper are about house fires that can be prevented. We are a busy world and loose focus of what is most important to us even for a few seconds. And in that few seconds our lives can change forever.

In the case of my daughter's basketball coach Kelly, her house caught fire due to fans being on the back porch. By the time the fire department arrived, the house was completely engulfed. It took a matter of 8 minutes for the fire department to arrive. Mind you the house was nearly 2,000 square feet.

Fires like this can be prevented by taking just a few minutes to unplug items that are not in use. Items that are not in an area where they will be used or supervised must be unplugged.

Extension cords can be a hazard if you do not use them properly. If you are unsure of which extension cord to use please ask a sales person, licensed electrician or even your local fire department for information. People tend to overload extension cords and outlets. People use extension cords when they do not have enough length in their electrical item. Extension cords must be placed in an area that is free of any other objects and is in a safe area. They can become tripping hazards. It is dangerous to place them under a rug. Visit your local home improvement store to get the on floor cord protector. It is a mold that holds the electrical wires underneath and can be taped to the floor safely. Many offices use this molding. If you have an area in your home that has several electrical items such as the television and applicable items use a surge protector power strip. It is also wise to use them for your computer, printer and other electronic items. When you leave home you can simply switch the power strip to off.

Most people are in a hurry to get to work, school, or do errands. But think about the costs of losing a loved one, home, and all belongings. Is it worth more to be in a hurry or have everything you love and worked hard for?

Frayed or exposed wires pose a fire hazard. If you cannot reasonably use electrical tape discard the item. Replace the wiring and or item if necessary.

The use of candles is quite common in households. We use them as decorations during special occasions, especially Christmas time. Some of us use them to make our homes smell pleasant. But candles must be supervised or put out. Children cannot be allowed to light candles or use them. So many accidents occur every year because of candles and children. Children get burned and homes are lost. Is it worth $.25, $.50, $.99 or even $10 candles to lose a child, loved one, or home? All it takes is just several seconds and your life can change over a candle that gets knocked over or too close to furniture or curtains.

Lighters attract many children and the end result is burns, death, and even loss of homes and belongings. Even though most lighters have childproof locks on them, do not underestimate a child. Do not even allow your children to touch lighters. Children are very curious creatures and they may figure out how to use them.

Cooking is another common issue when it comes to house fires. Grease fires or people forgetting or falling asleep occur everyday. Properties and lives are lost over simple things that get out of control. If you are feeling exhausted or sleepy do not use the stove. I have myself accidentally fallen asleep while cooking. It has been a blessing that nothing has ever happened. I recommend that you set a timer or alarm clock. Use the alarm clock on your cell phone if need be. Take a power nap then wake up to do cooking. When cooking, make sure all handles are faced inwards on the stove. Adults and children can knock a pan of the stove resulting in burns.

Dryers are a very common fire hazard. Several months ago my best friend nearly lost her home because of the dryer. A towel had fallen behind the dryer and burned. Luckily her son was home from college. Never leave a dryer unattended even for a few minutes. If you have to run to the store or next door, turn the dryer off. Lint screens must be cleaned every time you use the dryer no matter how much lint is on it. One way I disposed of the lint was to tack a plastic grocery bag to the wall up above the dryer away from everything. Once the bag was full, I disposed of it.

Heaters during the fall and winter months cause many house fires. Most of the time it is either the wiring/outlet overheated or it was placed too close to furniture or curtains. According to my local fire department, heaters must be placed at least 3 feet away from objects. If you do not have a location on the floor that offers 3 feet of space all around the heater, use a stand or table. For me, I used my night stand with no other objects around allowing it to circulate. Every morning when you wake up turn the heater off before leaving your home.

Every year you must take time to clean your heater before using it. If you cannot safely dismantle it I recommend using canned air that is used for electronics. It blows out the dust, so do this outside. Dust is another fire hazard and it collects on the fan blades of heaters and fans.

Fire hazards can be prevented as there are no excuses. Lives are lost each and everyday over simple things because we are in a hurry. Just taking a few minutes every morning and night to unplug unused, unsupervised electrical items, turning off dryers, heaters will make a difference in whether you come to a home or having a visit from the Red Cross. If need be, use an index card to write down daily reminders to unplug and turn off items before leaving your home. Tack it up next to your door where you will notice it. If your cell phone has a calendar that will remind you of things then program this in or use your alarm clock on the phone as a reminder.

Is living life with out a child, a loved one, belongings you have worked hard for as well as a home worth losing because of a fire? Candles that are $.25, fans that cost a mere $15, and heaters that can cost just $30 can cause do much destruction if neglected or left alone. Life is supposed to be priceless. Is it to you?

If you do not have a smoke detector please see your local fire department. Many are now giving away smoke detectors during the year to prevent loss of lives. Hardware, local home improvement stores as well as super stores sell them for as less than $8. This may sound like a lot to some, but again is it worth saving your family and your home?

Jennifer Bryan


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