When daylight savings time ends on November 5, it will be time to move clocks back and to replace the batteries in smoke and carbon dioxide alarms. This simple step takes only a few minutes and could save a life.
As winter and the holidays approach – with more cooking, heating, candle use and decorating – the risk of a home fire increases. The chance of dying in a home fire is cut nearly in half by having a working smoke alarm. The majority of home fires occur at night. Many people believe that they will be awakened by the smell of smoke, but poisonous gases and smoke can numb the senses and cause a deeper sleep. An alarm can alert occupants to a fire and allow for an escape. The Orange Fire Marshal’s Office offers these tips for installing, testing and maintaining smoke alarms. Choose an alarm that bears the label of a recognized testing laboratory. Place smoke alarms on every level of the home, including the basement, and outside all sleeping areas. For added safety, install smoke alarms in every sleeping area, including rooms where sleeper sofas or futons may be used on occasion. Alarms should be mounted in the following positions: wall – 4 to12 inches from the ceiling, ceiling – 4 inches from the nearest wall, vaulted ceiling – highest point. Replace the batteries in all smoke alarms twice a year. If an alarm “chirps” to indicate a low battery, change it immediately. Do not disable an alarm by borrowing the batteries for other uses or because of nuisance activations from cooking or bathroom steam. Never paint over a smoke alarm. Test smoke alarms every month by using the test button or an approved smoke substitute. If the home has a central monitoring system, test as directed by the company. Do not use an open-flame device. Special alarms are available for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. They have a strobe or flashing light, as well as the audible alarm. Vibrating devices may also be helpful. Replace smoke alarms after 10 years to protect against failure. They may work when tested, but the older models may be less reliable. When sleeping, be sure that the alarm will rouse all family members and have someone who is easily awakened assigned to wake the others, perhaps by yelling “FIRE” or pounding on doors or walls.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, tasteless, toxic gas that is a product of combustion. It is harmful when breathed because it attaches to hemoglobin, the part of the blood that carries oxygen to the brain, heart, and other vital organs. CO displaces the oxygen, thus depriving the body of this much needed element. Without warning, large amounts of CO can overcome a person in minutes, causing loss of consciousness and suffocation. The CO produced while using fuel-fired equipment is usually not harmful. However, increased carbon monoxide levels in homes are caused by faulty heating equipment, poor maintenance of exhaust systems, or something as simple as allowing a vehicle to warm up in an attached garage during cold winter days. Follow these preventative measures to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. At the beginning of every heating season, be sure to have fuel burning equipment such as oil or gas fired furnaces, fireplaces and wood stoves inspected by certified technicians. Be sure appliances such as water heaters, oven ranges, and clothes dryers are working properly. Have flues and chimneys checked for any buildup of creosote or blockage of the chimney. Be sure to maintain all fuel-fired equipment as described by the manufacturer’s specifications. Never leave a car running in an attached garage. The vapors from the vehicle’s exhaust could increase the level of carbon monoxide in a home in a matter of minutes! Do not use a gas stove to heat a home in the event of a power failure or heating equipment failure. Never use charcoal or propane grills indoors. Not only does this pose an extreme carbon monoxide hazard, it is also a severe fire hazard as well.
Think safety first when considering the use of alternative heating, such as space heaters. The space heater should be placed at a minimum of three feet from any combustible object. Make sure that all fuel-fired space heaters are equipped with oxygen depletion sensors. Do not use gasoline-powered equipment in enclosed areas of the home. Such engines create a mass amount of carbon monoxide.
Fires and CO events can occur day or night and early notification to all family members by an alarm can save lives. It is also important to have and practice a home escape plan. Everyone should know two ways out of each room and a meeting place outside the home. By preparing, you and your family will respond more calmly, feel more secure and act more quickly in an emergency.
Never hesitate to call 911 and alert the Fire Department if a fire or CO alarm is activated. If you have questions, need assistance regarding fire or carbon monoxide prevention or safety, or would like a free CO alarm, please contact the Orange Fire Marshal’s Office at (203) 891-4711, Monday through Friday from 8:30A.M. to 4:30 P.M. or at our website www.orangefiremarshal.com.