Large number of in-home burns and deaths are easily preventable MAY / J U N E 2 0 1 4 55 Firewise in Napa County by DavID Robertson Here in the land of earthquakes, wildfires, and even the occasional flood—all major disasters, each with a potentially large number of casualties and deaths—it’s hard to believe that fires and burns in the home are the third leading cause of fatal home injury. Thankfully those numbers have continued to decline, but even so most of these deaths are sadly preventable. And usually, preventable can be read as “easily preventable.” Here are a few more important stats from the Centers for Disease Control to “rattle your cage”: • Someone dies in a fire every 169 minutes; someone is injured every 30 minutes. • Fire departments responded to 384,000 home fires in 2010. In those, 2,640 people died. • Smoking is the leading cause of fire-related deaths. • Cooking is the primary cause of residential fires. • Fire and burn injuries represent $7.5 billion in losses each year. But on a positive note, “preventable” can also mean “do-able.” Simple precautions and measures can be taken to make your home more fire safe, and greatly decrease your chances of becoming one of the above statistics. Just a few bucks... … can go a long way towards home fire safety. 37% of home fire deaths occur in homes without smoke detectors. Since smoke detectors begin around $5 – about the cost of a fancy cold espresso drink – placing one in a common hallway, kids’ room, and living room can provide an inexpensive but widespread smoke alert coverage. (It doesn’t have to be those rooms. It’s really a matter of how your home is laid out, and placing detectors in strategically spread-out areas. Oh, and change your detector batteries every daylight savings day!). Fire extinguishers start around $20 and can put out a surprising amount of flame before it becomes unmanageable. Proper use is key: get trained! The CERT training I’ve mentioned in earlier issues covers extinguisher use, local fire departments often offer training, and the internet is full of reliable resource videos, like those offered on the FEMA and OSHA sites. But being heads-up... … can do even more, and doesn’t cost anything. Storing rags, papers, cardboard, etc. away from heat sources is just a matter of reorganizing and cleaning. Diligence and habit changes can stop you from smoking in bed, or leaving portable heaters on when you leave the home. Cooking with care is a simple “heads up” activity – never leave cooking food unattended on the stove; keep potholders and towels away from the cooking area; and avoid wearing clothes with long, loose-fitting sleeves. Tie back long hair that can catch on fire. Last, just as they taught you in school, have an escape plan. Children under four and adults over 65 are those at greatest risk for fire-related death or injury, so pay special attention to their needs, reinforce the plan often with them, and get them involved. www.fire.ca.gov is an excellent resource for planning, how to teach it, and provides links to other fire safety resources on the Web. In the end... …our homes are our havens, our safe spots, the places where our kids grow up. Losing a home, or worse, losing someone to a house fire, can be catastrophic, the effects of which can be felt for a long time afterward. Some simple training (including web-based training), a quick trip to a home repair store, and being a little more aware of the potential fire hazards can go a long way to keeping your precious home, and you and your family, safe and sound. David Robertson is a retired firefighter/paramedic who lives in Napa.
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