The Crozet Volunteer Fire Department reminds our community to change the batteries in your smoke detectors as we “Fall Back” into daylight savings time. Having a working smoke detector for each bed room and on each floor of your house is an important part of your families safety.
Few of us realize how easily — and how quickly — fire can harm our loved ones. Fortunately, there is a simple, affordable way to help prevent this from happening: the smoke alarm.
By providing an early warning in the event of fire, smoke alarms may allow you and your family sufficient time to reach safety. Many people have neglected to install smoke alarms despite their life-saving potential and low cost. Even those who do have smoke alarms often take them for granted — forgetting that they need some attention to continue working properly. UL offers the following tips for purchasing and maintaining smoke alarms.
Step 1: Buy smoke alarms – and cut your family’s risk in half.
Experts report that consumers may cut their risk of dying in a home fire in half simply by having a smoke alarm installed. Smoke alarms are available at nearly all hardware, department and discount stores, often for under $20. So don’t delay – get out there and buy one. The peace of mind you’ll have from knowing that your family is safe and secure is worth the investment.
Step 2: Look for the UL Mark
When you purchase a smoke alarm, look for the UL Mark on the product as well as on the packaging. The UL Mark tells you that a representative sample of the smoke alarm has been evaluated by UL scientists and engineers to nationally recognized safety requirements. It also means that UL conducts follow-up evaluations to countercheck that samples of the smoke alarm continue to meet these safety requirements.
Step 3: Don’t just buy one! There’s safety in numbers
Install at least one smoke alarm on each floor of the house or residence and outside all sleeping areas. Some fire safety advocates recommend installing smoke alarms inside each sleeping area if sleeping with the door closed.
Step 4: Keep your alarms working properly
Working smoke alarms are needed in every home and residence. Test and maintain your smoke alarms at least once a month, or follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Smoke alarms most often fail because of missing, dead or disconnected batteries. Replace batteries at least once a year. Testing is generally as simple as pushing a button and listening to hear the beep.
Step 5: Practice a fire escape plan
In addition to installing smoke alarms in your home, UL also recommends that you develop a fire escape plan and practice it at least twice a year with all members of your household. In the event of a fire, every family member should know at least two ways out of each room. Stay as close to the floor as possible during your escape. Hot air and smoke rise, so the air nearest the floor may be safer to breathe. If you encounter a closed door during your escape, feel the door before opening it. If it’s hot to the touch, use another exit. The heat could indicate fire on the other side of the door. Teach your children how to escape in case of a fire — not to hide under a bed or in a closet.
Some individuals, particularly children, older people and those with special needs, may not wake up to the sound of a smoke alarm. You should be aware of this when developing your home fire escape plan.
Designate a well-lit place, a safe distance away from your home, where everyone will meet in the event of a fire. This will help firefighters determine if anyone else is still inside the home. And remember, never return to a burning building for any reason.
Review of smoke alarm installation, safety and maintenance
- Read and follow the manufacturer’s installation and maintenance instructions (including regular testing).
- Install fresh batteries in your smoke alarms at least once a year.
- Don’t allow anyone to disconnect or “borrow” the batteries from your smoke alarms. A smoke alarm can’t work unless it’s connected to a power source.
If the warning alarm sounds, don’t panic. Stay close to the floor and get out of the building. Before opening any doors, check the temperature. If the door feels hot to the touch, don’t open it. Use an alternate exit.
When it comes to fire safety, information abounds. But as a busy mom, it’s often hard to find the time to wade through the information and figure out what you need to do to keep your family safer.
Here are five simple things that you can do today to help protect your family from fire.
Do a Smoke Alarm Audit
Do an audit of your home’s smoke alarms. (If you don’t have UL listed smoke alarms, make a plan to install them on each level of the home, especially near sleeping areas). Check placement: Smoke rises, so smoke alarms should be located on a ceiling or high on a wall. Alarms mounted on the ceiling should be at least four inches away from the nearest wall and those mounted on walls should be four to twelve inches down from the ceiling. Test your alarms and be sure that they can be heard in bedrooms even when the doors are closed. If not, install smoke alarms in the bedrooms. Make sure that your kids know what the alarms sound like. Replace alarms that are older than 10 years and replace any alarm that has been painted over.
Mom Tip: Change the batteries whenever you change the clocks for Daylight Savings Time.
Make Extinguishers Handy
Be sure that you have at least one or more UL listed fire extinguishers in your home. An ABC-type extinguisher is a good all-purpose choice for fires in the home. Check the gauge located on the extinguisher to see if it needs to be replaced or recharged. Also be sure that the fire extinguisher is in an easily accessible location. Remember that fire extinguishers are not designed to fight large or spreading fires. Your number one priority is to have an escape plan and to get out safely. If the fire is small and contained and the room is not filled with smoke, get everyone out and call the fire department; then, you may use the fire extinguisher to control the fire.
Mom Tip: Read the directions and familiarize yourself with the use of your extinguisher now, before you’re in the midst of an actual emergency.
Talk Prevention with Your Kids
Talk to your kids about how they can prevent fires. Children under age five are especially curious about fire and need to start learning about the tremendous danger. Take the mystery out of fire and make sure that your kids know the following safety tips:
- Never play with matches, lighters or candles.
- Never play with electrical cords and never put anything in a socket.
- Blankets or clothes should never be thrown on top of lamps.
- Don’t turn up a heater without a grown-up’s permission.
- If your clothes catch on fire, stop, drop and roll.
Mom Tip: Check under beds and in closets for burned matches or candles. Kids often choose “secret” places to play with matches and light fires. Even “good” kids are curious– teach your kids to always tell you when they find matches and lighters.
Look at Your Home From Your Child’s Perspective
Think about how your child sees potential fire hazards in your home by getting down on your hands and knees with them and taking a look around. See any dangling cords that could cause a problem if pulled? Enticing heaters or other appliances? Make adjustments to your home according to what you find.
Mom Tip: Make your floor-tour a game with your kids. Have them point out things they see by playing eye-spy. You’ll be surprised by what catches their attention.
Avoid Overloading Sockets and Cords
Do a walk-through of your home. If you see sockets with too many cords plugged in or even too many extension cords around the house, it may be time to have extra outlets installed by a professional. Always pay attention to the acceptable wattage for cords and lamps. Also look for extension cords that are “tacked up” or run under a rug as these could be a real fire hazard for kids and adults.
In addition to working smoke detectors, every family should have UL certified fire extinguishers strategically placed in rooms such as the kitchen, garage or workshop. Fire extinguishers are your second line of defense behind a smoke detector and can be the difference between a small inconvenience and a life-changing event.
What type of extinguisher should I buy?
Using the wrong type of extinguisher on a fire can actually make it spread so it’s important to plan ahead when purchasing and placing fire extinguishers. There are four types of household extinguishers, and the manufacturer’s use and care booklet provides guidance on the type and size of fire with which your extinguisher may be used. The booklet also provides tips on how to properly use and maintain your extinguisher.
- Type A: For use on fires involving combustible materials such as wood, cloth and paper
- Type B: For use on flammable liquid fires, including kitchen grease. Never use water to extinguish this type of fire!
- Type C: For use in fires involving energized electrical equipment.
- Type ABC: For use on all types of fires listed above.
Where should I keep my extinguisher?
Don’t just hang your extinguisher on the wall or in the cupboard. Plan ahead, read the instruction manual and know your extinguisher’s capabilities before trying to fight a fire. Portable extinguishers are useful for putting out small fires, but recognize your limits and the limits of the extinguisher.
Some basic rules to keep in mind when dealing with household fire extinguishers:
- If a fire breaks out, your first step is to call the fire department
and get everyone out of the house. If the fire is not spreading and is
confined to a small area, use the appropriate type extinguisher for the
fire. Know both your limits and the fire extinguisher’s limits.
- Periodically inspect your extinguishers to determine if they need to
be recharged or replaced. Extinguishers need to be recharged or
replaced after each use — even if you haven’t used all of the
- When using a portable extinguisher, keep your back to an unobstructed exit that is free from fire.
Check the manufacturer’s instructions for operating guidelines, including proper distance between the extinguisher and fire. Always aim at the base of the fire.
When you’re growing up, fire safety is something you practice in school and your family takes care of at home. Your parents install smoke alarms and change the batteries; provide escape ladders; and create an escape plan. After all, you’re under their roof and keeping you safe is a top priority for them. Then, you leave home and may find yourself living with others in a dorm, apartment or shared house. You are subject to the safety habits of others and suddenly completely responsible for your own wellbeing. Commit a Minute to think about fire safety now, and if an emergency should arise, you’ll be prepared. Getting out of a fire safely isn’t about luck; it’s about practicing and planning ahead.
Fire is the fourth leading cause of accidental injuries in the United States. A residential fire occurs every 84 seconds in this country, and once burning, the size of a fire can double every 30 seconds. Fire departments respond to approximately 3,800 dorm fires each year and cooking is the leading cause of those fires. Overloaded electrical circuits and extension cords are also listed as common causes of campus fire emergencies. Nationwide, more than 40 percent of adult fire fatalities involve alcohol.
If a fire alarm should sound in your building, take it seriously. Student apathy is a major problem with quick and efficient evacuation. Take the time to learn the escape route in your building, the location and operation of the 9-1-1 alert system (if present) and the location of fire extinguishers. If a fire should occur in your building, get out as soon as possible. Do NOT try to act bravely or put it out yourself.
If you have an escape plan, put it into motion at the first signs of a fire. Never exit a door if it feels hot to the touch, you could walk right into flames. First, look at the door to see if smoke is present, touch it to test for warmth and close it immediately if smoke pours in when opened. Stay low while you exit to avoid smoke inhalation – more injuries are smoke-related than fire-related. Never re-enter a burning building; wait for fire fighters to arrive and assist you.
In community-living facilities such as residence halls, Greek housing or off-campus apartments, everyone must do their part to make their dwelling a safer place. Here are a few easy steps you can take to help prevent fire or electrical hazards:
- Take fire prevention seriously- identify at least two escape routes
from your room, learn your building’s emergency exits and don’t ignore
- Make sure that you can hear the smoke or fire alarm when your door is shut.
- Do not overload outlets by using multiple plug-extenders or
extension cords. Choose a certified, surge-protected power strip and
stick to recommended wattages.
- Check electrical wires and cords on appliances, tools, lamps, etc., to make sure they’re not worn or frayed.
- Never run electrical wires or extension cords under carpets or heavy items, and never bunch them up behind a hot appliance.
- Never “tack-up” an extension cord with staples or pins.
- Unplug appliances when not in use.
- If you’re in an apartment, have your building’s management install
smoke alarms — at least one on each level — and make sure they’re
maintained and tested regularly.
- Never cook in your room.
- Avoid using candles in your room.
- Look for the UL Mark on all electrical products.
In most homes, the clothes dryer has become an indispensable part of family living. And for families with children, laundry often seems never-ending. But, many families don’t know that clothes dryers can be a leading cause of fires in the home – approximately 15,000 every year. At UL, we rigorously inspect, certify and test dryers while they are still in the factory to ensure that safety standards are met. Once you bring them home, a little preventative maintenance can keep them in good working order.
What causes fires?
One of the most common causes of dryer fires is lack of maintenance. When lint traps aren’t cleaned as often as they should be, the resulting build-up in the screen or other areas can cause the dryer to perform poorly, operate at elevated temperatures and possibly overheat – with dangerous consequences. Vent systems must also be checked and cleaned to maintain proper air flow for the same reasons.
Problems may also occur if consumers place improper items in their dryers, such as foam backed rugs or athletic shoes, or vent their appliances with plastic or vinyl exhaust materials. Make sure that whatever you put in your dryer is approved and safe to place in a dryer. When in doubt, check the washing instructions on the tag of the clothing or consult the manufacturers website for more information.
What can you do?
An important safeguard your family can take is to ensure that your dryer has rigid or flexible metal venting and ducting materials to help sustain airflow. This will also reduce operating costs and extend the life of the dryer and clothing due to lower drying temperatures.
- Clean the lint trap before and after drying each load of clothes.
- Don’t forget to clean the back of the dryer where lint can be trapped.
- The interior of the dryer and venting system should be cleaned periodically by qualified service personnel. If you notice the drying time is longer, clean the vent system thoroughly to ensure proper airflow.
- Replace plastic or vinyl exhaust hoses with rigid or flexible metal venting.
- Do not dry clothing/fabric on which there is anything flammable (alcohol, cooking oils, gasoline, spot removers, dry-cleaning solvents, etc.). Flammable substances give off vapors that could ignite or explode.
- Don’t forget to read manufacturers’ warnings in use and care manuals that accompany new dryers. Also, warning markings can usually be found on the inside of the dryer’s lid and take only minutes to read.
Did you know that?
- Clothes dryers can be found in 80 percent, or 81.5 million homes throughout the United States.
- A full load of wet clothes placed in a dryer contains about one half gallon of water. As water is removed, lint is created from the clothes.
- Clothes dryers are one of the most expensive appliances in your home to operate. The longer it runs, the more money it costs you.
- The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that 15,500 fires associated with clothes dryers occur annually. These fires account for an average of 10 deaths and 310 injuries and more than $84.4 million in property damage annually.
- On a positive note, the number of clothes dryer fires has dropped by 35 percent from the 24,000 fires that occurred annually, on average, in the late 1970s.
How UL has helped reduce dryer fire risks
UL has worked with the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) and the CPSC to reduce the number of clothes dryer fires. Changes have been made to UL’s Standard for electric clothes dryers to include instructions that lint be cleaned regularly from areas around the dryer and lint screen; routing wiring and keeping other electrical components away from heat-producing devices; and abnormal operations tests that simulate a blocked lint screen and exhaust at 25, 75 and 100 percent blockage.