Written by Gene Shealy
Having a plan is always best when it comes to anything that life may bring you, but it is essential when an emergency occurs. A big part of our mission at the City of Newberry Fire Department is pre-planning emergencies through training, staffing, and equipment readiness. Another part of our mission is to ensure that the citizens we serve are prepared and have what they need to help prevent or respond to an emergency. Emergencies will strike at a moment’s notice, and it is never expected. Fire is essential in our everyday life, but sometimes it can be very dangerous. One of the leading causes of structure fires and home fire injuries is cooking, and the number one factor is “unattended” cooking. Make sure you never leave your stove unattended, not even for a second. There are so many distractions in today’s fast-paced world that this can be difficult. Sometimes, a simple phone call may take you away from your stove and it only takes that brief time for a fire to occur. If you are cooking and severe weather causes your power to go out, make sure you turn your stove off so that when the power comes back on, your stove does not come on with it. If a small fire does occur, remember to stay calm and follow these steps. If possible, turn the appliance off and cover it with a lid. Never try to remove burning oils or contents from the stove. If your oven catches fire, simply close the door, and cut the oven off. If the fire is too big for you to control, do not try to fight it. Get everyone out of the home and call 911. Having an extinguisher near an exit is a good way to ensure a safe escape.
Heating during the winter months is also a common cause of structure fires. Heating equipment is the leading cause of home fire deaths. Make sure you practice safe heating during the winter months. Never leave heating equipment unattended and turn off the equipment while you sleep. Only plug heaters directly into a wall outlet. Never use plug strips or extension cords to operate portable heating equipment. Make sure heating equipment is vented and use the three feet rule. The three feet rule is to keep children, pets, and anything that could burn at least three away from any heat source. Make sure the heating appliances are kept out of egress paths and in places where they may cause injury or be tipped over.
One of the best ways to protect you and your family in the event of a fire is to have working smoke alarms in the home. Most alarms today have lithium-ion batteries, which are good for the life of the alarm. If your alarm takes the standard 9-volt battery, it should be changed at least every six months. All alarms should be tested monthly and replaced when defected. Smoke alarms should be placed inside of every bedroom, outside of every sleeping area, and on every level of your home. The alarm should be installed on the ceiling or wall. We do not recommend installing smoke alarms directly in your kitchen. This will only cause nuisance alarms leading to the removal of the device. If you have sources of carbon monoxide (CO), often through an attached garage, fireplace, or gas-fueled appliances, you should have an operational carbon monoxide (CO) alarm in your home. Common sources for carbon monoxide include furnaces, boilers, water heaters, other gas appliances, motor vehicles, lawn equipment and tobacco smoke, just to name a few. CO alarms should be installed in a central location, outside of sleeping areas and on every level of the home. Most alarms can be purchased at local retailers. For more information on installation of smoke alarms or carbon monoxide alarms, please reach out to your local fire department. If you or someone you know has hearing problems, have them reach out to Lifetone Customer Service at 1-800-648-7923 for information on how to acquire this type of alarm.
If a fire does occur in your home, have an escape plan. Draw your house plan out and practice this drill with your family at least twice a year. Locate a safe meeting place to make sure everyone is out of the home and accounted for. Make sure your family knows to stay low and crawl when smoke fills the home. Know two ways out of every room. Windows are a good option to escape when common egress paths are blocked by smoke and fire. Make sure windows in your home are operable. If you have multiple floors, place emergency escape ladders for window egress on those floors. If for some reason you cannot escape, shut the door and shelter in place. Let 911 operators know your location, so firefighters can quickly locate you. Another great piece of advice is to close doors behind you while you evacuate. Oxygen helps support fire growth and when you take it away, you could stop the spread of fire. The door also acts as a barrier, which will keep the fire from spreading quickly to other portions of your home. While sleeping, it is a good idea to close your door to keep smoke or fire from entering your bedroom in the case of a fire.
It is also important that we prepare for other emergencies, such as natural disasters. Know the zones that you reside in and what the potential dangers are when it comes to flooding and evacuation. Make sure your insurance policies protect you and your home. It is a good idea to keep flashlights, batteries, weather radios, and other essential items in a special place for emergency response during a disaster. Adhere to local authorities and only return when conditions are safe. Always seek shelter during a storm and keep up with weather updates to ensure conditions are safe before leaving shelter.
I hope this tidbit of information will be helpful, and at least get you thinking about safety. There is no way to hit on all emergencies in one article, but these are a few common emergencies that you need to prepare for. For more details on how to be prepared, please visit Firesafe.sc.gov. Fire Safe South Carolina is a partnership between state and local agencies to ensure our citizens across South Carolina are prepared and protected. The City of Newberry Fire Department is committed to your safety and has been named a Fire Safe community by Fire Safe South Carolina for four consecutive years. This award shows our dedication towards community risk reduction. If you need any assistance, please contact your local fire department. If you live in the City of Newberry, please contact us for more information at 803-321-1030. Stay safe!