Most fatal fires happen in homes and at least half of those are preventable, according to statistics from Florida’s Fire Marshal’s Office. Having a working smoke alarm is a must when it comes to fire safety, said State Fire Marshal Tom Gallagher, but equally important are practicing an escape plan and avoiding fire risks.
Gov. Bush and the Cabinet, of which Gallagher is a member, passed a resolution on recently designating the week of Oct. 10 as Fire Prevention Week. Gallagher is urging Floridians to check their smoke alarms and rehearse an escape plan during the week, which was to begin on Sunday.
“If a fire occurs, you may have only a few seconds to escape,” Gallagher said. “That’s why it is critical to have a plan that you have practiced and memorized.”
Last year, 415 people died in Florida and 790 were injured due to fires. While the very young and the very old are typically the most vulnerable to death or injury from fire, the highest number of deaths in 2004 was among men between the ages of 41 and 50.
The leading causes of fires in homes are cooking, heaters, electrical overloads, worn or damaged wiring, smoking and candles. In fact, the number of fires caused by candles doubled nationwide between 1980 and 2002, when 130 people died and 1,350 were reported injured as a result of candle fires. In Florida last year, candle fires were blamed for two deaths and 42 injuries.
The National Fire Protection Association has made “Use Candles With Care” the theme of its national efforts during Fire Prevention Week.
Statistics show the majority of candle fires begin in a bedroom after the occupant has fallen asleep. Common causes of candle fires are combustible material coming too close to the candle, the candle being left unattended, or someone (often a child) playing with a candle. The number of candle fires in homes has been noted to double in December.
“That is why you should never leave a candle burning unattended and should put it out before going to bed,” Gallagher said. He also offered these important fire safety tips for the home:
* Burn candles in a sturdy holder and keep them away from children, pets and curtains.
* Use flashlights, not candles, in jack-o-lanterns.
* Use a flashlight instead of candles during a power outage.
* Keep an approved fire extinguisher in the kitchen.
* Do not use frayed extension cords and do not place extension cords under a rug or near a heat source.
* Do not overload electrical outlets or extension cords.
* If you smoke, do not smoke in bed and never walk away from a lighted cigarette.
* Keep ovens, broiling pans and kitchen exhaust fans clean.
* With small children in the house, turn handles away from the front of the stove.
* When frying foods on stove, do NOT leave the stove unattended.
* Do not wear loose or flowing sleeves when cooking.
* If a fuse or circuit breaker should blow or keeps tripping, find out why.
During Fire Prevention Week, Gallagher is asking Floridians to:
* Plan escape routes from every room and floor to an outdoor meeting place. Be sure everyone in the family knows and practices them. If there is only one exit from the upper floor, have slides or rope ladders available and practice proper use.
* Install smoke detectors on every floor and in hallways leading to bedrooms.
* Test smoke alarms and change smoke alarm batteries when changing the clocks for daylight savings time in the spring and fall months.
During Fire Prevention Week, the Bureau of Fire Prevention in the State Fire Marshal’s Office will be visiting college campuses to provide targeted fire safety information to students, many of whom are living on their own for the first time.
And, for the third consecutive year, Gallagher has also sent third-graders something to inspire them to discuss fire safety with their families – a growth chart designed with age-appropriate fire safety tips. The third grade has been identified as a good age to begin more in-depth fire safety discussions. In 2003, Gallagher issued a calendar and in 2004 bookmarks, both loaded with fire safety tips.
Since 2001, the State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) and the Florida Fire & Emergency Services Foundation have teamed up to provide more than 12,000 smoke detectors that have been installed for free in at-risk home in communities throughout Florida.
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