It has been a turbulent few months with devastation occurring in the form of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and now with the fires scorching through Northern California that have destroyed more than 5,700 homes, caused at least 40 deaths,1 and burned more than 212,000 acres.2 As firefighters continue to fight the blazes, our thoughts and well wishes go out to those affected by these terrible events.
Fire is a constant public safety concern at all times of the year, and can cause catastrophic destruction to businesses, structures, and residential homes. In 2016, there were 805 residential structural fires reported in Alaska, resulting in 18 civilian deaths, 52 civilian injuries, 23 firefighter injuries and over $26 million in property loss, according to Alaska.gov.
With the change in seasons upon us, and the holidays approaching, now is the time to ensure the safety of your residence, property, and family from potential injuries and property damage.
Bill Walker, Governor of Alaska, has recently proclaimed the month of October as Fire Prevention Month, and is urging all Alaskans to be proactive and take precautionary measures to avoid fires across the great state.
This year, the theme of Fire Prevention is “Every Second Counts, Plan 2 Ways Out,” and focuses on the importance of having multiple well-prepared fire escape plans. While one of the most important and easily implemented solutions for homeowners to protect their property and their family is to have properly functioning smoke alarms, and carbon monoxide detectors, it is equally important to have both a plan and a back up plan to keep your family safe.
RESIDENTIAL FIRE STATISTICS
The top 3 causes of residential fires in Alaska were:
- Unattended cooking
- Never leave the kitchen unattended while cooking food. Stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling, or broiling food.
- Check your food regularly while cooking and never leave the house with something cooking in the oven or on the stove.
- Always use a timer so you will remember that the stove or oven is on.
- Don’t wear lose clothing that hangs over burners.
- Keep anything that could catch fire such as dishtowels, oven mitts, or curtains away from your stove or other cooking appliances.
- Unsafe Heating Methods
- Keep anything that could burn at least 3 feet away from heating equipment such as the furnace, fireplace, stove, or space heater.
- Keep kids at least 3 feet away from open fires and space heaters.
- Have your furnace and fireplaces inspected by professionals every year.
- Equipment Malfunctions
- Have electrical wiring and heating inspected by professionals every year.
- Avoid running extension cords under carpeting or down hallways.
- Avoid overloading outlets. Plug only one high-wattage appliance into each receptacle.
- Place lamps on level surfaces and use bulbs that match the lamp’s recommended wattage.
- Call an electrician at the first sign of outlet problems such as flickering, frequent issues with blowing fuses or tripping circuits.
Another safeguard, and possibly one of the most important, is to make sure that your smoke alarms are in proper working order. The NFPA encourages everyone to check the manufacturing date on the back of smoke alarms and replace them if they are more than 10 years old. Monthly testing should also be done on smoke alarms to make sure the batteries do not need to be replaced.
Prevention is the safest way to prepare yourself in the event of a fire. Unfortunately, fire emergencies can happen quickly and spread fast, so in conjunction with the theme of the month, have a back up plan and a back up to your back up. Make sure that all family members know the options for getting out of the house safely and practice a fire drill with them for extra care. Performing all the actions above can give you peace of mind, and possibly save your home or a life and avoid a potential disaster.
We hope you never have to encounter a fire in your home, on your property or near your loved ones, and our hearts go out to those affected by the blazes in California.
Sources: 1CNBC October 15, 2017; 2LA Times October 13, 2017