The Columbus Division of Fire is asking all city residents to increase fire safety techniques and awareness in their homes. Over the last four to six weeks, Columbus Fire has seen a significant increase in not only the number of fatalities in fires, but in fires in the community.
“This is a very concerning number of fire fatalities and fires in our city,” said Columbus Division of Fire Marshal David Baugh. “We have had 15 fatalities this year. For the month of June, we saw a nearly a 50 percent increase in fires.”
“We are calling on the residents of our community to make a conscious effort to put an end to this surge and we are here to help them do that,” said Fire Chief Jeffrey Happ. “This is a serious issue in our city right now and the only way we can bring those numbers down is by reinforcing proper fire safety precautions.”
When it comes to fire safety, prevention is the key. Smoke detectors are the first step. Smoke alarms that are properly installed and maintained play a vital role in reducing fire deaths and injuries. In collaboration with the Red Cross, Columbus Fire offers free installation of smoke detectors that are good for 10 years.
Eliminating the causes of fires is also very important. The following are some common causes:
• Smoking. This happens whether smoking near oxygen, or discarding cigarettes near flammable items.
• Unattended cooking. Leaving food cooking on a stove top or oven unattended can cause a fire in your kitchen that rapidly spreads throughout a house
• Overloaded circuits or extension cords. Often an extension cord is not rated to carry the load of some high amperage-drawing appliances like air conditioners and refrigerators.
• Never let children use or play with matches or lighters. Always keep those items out of reach of kids who are naturally curious about such items.
When it comes to smoking, it always best to smoke outdoors. When discarding cigarettes, do not discard them in vegetation such as mulch, potted plants or landscaping, peat moss, dried grasses, leaves or other things that could ignite easily. Before you throw away butts and ashes, make sure they are out. Dousing in water or sand is the best way to do that. Lastly, never smoke or allow anyone to smoke where medical oxygen is used. Medical oxygen can cause materials to ignite more easily and make fires burn at a faster rate than normal. It can make an existing fire burn faster and hotter.
Electrical fires can be prevented by simply understanding and following basic electrical safety practices. Never overload an electrical socket with too many plugs, which includes extension cords. All power and extension cords should be checked regularly for signs of fraying and cracking, and they should then be repaired or replaced as needed. Power cords should not be stapled into place or under rugs and furniture. Cords under rugs can pose a tripping hazard and can overheat, while furniture can crush cord insulation.
It is essential to understand some critical reactions that can help you in the event of a fire.
• First, Call 911
• Second, have and practice an escape plan from your house. This should include a secondary way to exit different rooms in your house, specifically bedrooms. Often the normal way we move about our house may not be the safest way to exit when there is a fire. Be sure to include all family members in this planning and practice
• Third, when sleeping, close your bedroom doors. Smoke and fire spread can be delayed by this simple step that may give you the seconds it takes to escape safely.
• Fourth, if leaving a room, feel the door for heat. If it is hot, do not open it. If it is not hot, open just slightly to see if there is smoke outside of the room. If either of these situations are present, you should use the alternate escape route discussed earlier.
• Finally, when exiting, stay low to the ground. Smoke rises and this may gave you a chance to escape while avoiding toxic smoke.
“We ask that all Columbus residents take this issue seriously and do their part to ensure that they and their loved ones are safe from the threat of fires,” said Happ.
To receive a free installed smoke alarm, call the Columbus Division of Fire Smoke Detector Hotline at 614-724-0935.