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Safety

SMOKE DETECTORS

Smoke is responsible for three out of four deaths.

  • Install smoke detectors on every level of your home especially outside of sleeping areas.

  • Test every detector at least once a month.

  • Keep smoke detectors dust free. Replace batteries with new ones at least once a year, or sooner if the detector makes a chirping sound.

  • If you have a smoke detector directly wired into your electrical system, be sure that the little signal light is blinking periodically. This tells you that the alarm is active.

  • Inexpensive smoke detectors are available for the hearing impaired.

FIRE EXTINGUISHERS

They remain your best bet if you're on the spot when a fire begins.

  • Fire extinguishers should be mounted in the kitchen, garage, basement, and workshop.

  • Purchase an ABC type extinguisher for extinguishing all types of fires.

  • Learn how to use your fire extinguisher before there is an emergency.

  • Remember, use an extinguisher on small fires only. If there is a large fire, get out immediately and call 911 from another location.

THINKING AHEAD: Your Exit Plan

As with other things, the best motto is "Be Prepared."

  • Prepare a floor plan of your home showing at least two ways out of each room.

  • Easy-to-use window escape ladders are available through many catalogues and outlet stores.

  • Agree on a fixed location out-of-doors where family members are to gather for a head count.

  • Stay together away from the fire. Call 911 from another location. Make certain that no one goes back inside the burning building.

  • Check corridors and stairways to make sure they are free of obstructions and combustibles.

FIREPLACE

Remember, you're deliberately bringing fire into your home; respect it.

  • Use a fireplace screen to keep your family, pets, and combustibles away from the hot glass.

  • Don't store newspapers, kindling, or matches near the fireplace or have an exposed rug or wooden floor right in front of the fireplace.

  • For electrically operated gas fireplaces, if the unit does not ignite when you turn on the switch, turn off the switch and call your  heating professional to check the operation of the fireplace. Do Not attempt to get the fireplace to ignite by turning the switch on shortly after it failed to ignite because gas could build up in the fireplace chamber and explode causing harm to yourself, your family and/or a major fire.

  • Inspect your chimney vent yourself or, preferably, have it inspected by a professional prior to the start of every heating season to make sure no obstructions or combustibles are on, near, or in the vent. Clean away leaves, spider webs, etc., as necessary.
     

FURNACE/SPACE HEATERS

  • Have your furnace inspected by a professional prior to the start of every heating season.

  • Change your filter every 3– 6 months or per the filter manufacturer’s instructions.

  • Don't store newspapers, rags, or other combustible materials near a furnace, hot water heater, space heater, etc.

  • Used improperly, any space heater can be the most dangerous appliance in your house. Try not to use them at all.

  • If you must use a space heater, don't leave space heaters operating when you're not in the room.

  • Keep space heaters at least three feet away from anything that might burn, including the wall.

  • Don't use extension cords with electrical space heaters. The high amount of current they require could melt the cord and start a fire.

  • Never use a gas range as a substitute for a furnace or space heater.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

What is carbon monoxide (CO) and why do I need a carbon monoxide detector?

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless and toxic gas produced as a by-product of combustion. Any fuel burning appliance, vehicle, tool, or other device has the potential to produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide gas. Examples of carbon monoxide-producing devices commonly in use around the home include:

  • Fuel fired furnaces (non-electric)

  • Gas water heaters

  • Fireplaces and woodstoves

  • Gas stoves

  • Gas dryers

  • Charcoal grills

  • Lawnmowers, snow blowers and other yard equipment

  • Automobiles

 

The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that approximately 200 people per year are killed by accidental CO poisoning with an additional 5,000 people injured. These deaths and injuries are typically caused by improperly used or malfunctioning equipment aggravated by improvements in building construction which limit the amount of fresh air flowing into homes and other structures.

 

While regular maintenance and inspection of gas burning equipment in the home can minimize the potential for exposure to CO gas, the possibility for some type of sudden failure resulting in a potentially life threatening build up of gas always exists.

 

What are the different types of carbon monoxide detectors and how do they work?

There are a number of different types and brands of carbon monoxide detectors on the market today; They can be most easily characterized by whether they operate on household current or batteries. Underlying this, in most cases, is the type of sensor employed in the detector’s operation. Detectors using household current typically employ some type of solid-state sensor which purges itself and re-samples for CO on a periodic basis. This cycling of the sensor is the source of its increased power demands. Detectors powered by batteries typically use a passive sensor technology which reacts to the prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide gas.

 

Regardless of the type of sensor used, all detectors sold on the market today should conform to minimum sensitivity and alarm characteristics. These characteristics have been defined and are verified by Underwriters Laboratory in their standard for carbon monoxide detectors.

 

The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends a detector on each floor of a residence. At a minimum, a single detector should be placed on each sleeping floor with an additional detector in the area of any major gas burning appliances such as a furnace or water heater. Installation in these areas ensures rapid detection of any potentially malfunctioning appliances and the ability to hear the alarm from all sleeping areas. In general, carbon monoxide detectors should be placed high (near the ceiling) for most effective use. Detectors should not be placed within five feet of gas-fueled appliances or near cooking or bathing areas. Consult the manufacturer’s installation instructions for proper placement of a detector within a given area.

 

What should I do when my carbon monoxide detector goes off?

First and foremost, stay calm. Most situations resulting in activation of a carbon monoxide detector are not life threatening and do not require calling 911. Although calling 911 is a judgment call that you need to make, ask the following questions of everyone in the household:

"Does anyone feel ill? Is anyone experiencing the 'flu-like' symptoms of headache, nausea or dizziness?"

If the answer to the above by anyone in the household is true, evacuate the household to a safe location and have someone call 911. Failure to evacuate immediately may result in prolonged exposure and worsening effects from possible carbon monoxide gas. The best initial treatment for carbon monoxide gas exposure is fresh air.

 

If the answer to the above by everyone in the household is no, the likelihood of a serious exposure is greatly diminished and one probably does not need to call 911. Instead, turn off any gas burning appliances or equipment, ventilate the area and attempt to reset the alarm. If the alarm will not reset or resounds, call a qualified heating and ventilating service contractor to inspect your system for possible problems. If at any time during this process someone begins to feel ill with the symptoms described above evacuate the household to a safe location and have someone call 911. Remember, you need to make the decision to call 911 or not and you might want to play it safe and  call 911 in any event.

 

How do I maintain my Carbon Monoxide Detector

In general, follow the manufacturer’s directions. Be sure to keep it dust free and check the batteries periodically. Most electrically operated detectors have a battery for backup to keep it operating when the power goes out. If you have an older Carbon Monoxide detector, especially one that came with your unit, replace it immediately with a new one available at most home centers. The detectors available today are of a newer generation which more accurately detects lower levels of carbon monoxide giving you  more time to react. They are also less likely to false alarm.