FIRE SMART: Safety comes first

It’s a great time to consider some new year’s resolutions for keeping ourselves safe in 2015.

We are well into a new year and it’s a great time to consider some new year’s resolutions for keeping ourselves safe in 2015.

In order to get started, we need to look over the past year and see what we did right and where we need to improve. I have heard that a person has a one-in-700 chance of having a fire in their lifetime. I can’t say whether that is actually true or even where I first heard it, but I do know fires are still happening far too often in Vernon.

I realize there were definitely other contributing factors to the problem this past year but with that aside, Vernon Fire Rescue Services was still very busy. So, after reviewing some of the past year’s fire causes and considering the issues people have talked to me about, here are a few things we need to improve on in 2015.

1. I know I have said this a number of times before, but here it is again, working smoke alarms save lives. In order for them to perform the way they are supposed to, they need power. Check them monthly and replace their batteries on a regular basis before they expire. All smoke alarms have a life expectancy of seven to 10 years after which they need to be replaced. It is the same for hard-wired or battery-powered smoke alarms. Although the alarm may sound when you press the button, the sensor may no longer be any good and the alarm will be unable to detect smoke. Manufacturers generally print the expiry date on or in the alarm and once that date has passed they no longer accept any responsibility for it working properly. Make sure your smoke alarm will work when you need it by maintaining it and insuring that it is in good working order.

2. We are still having fires caused by candles. Please treat candles with respect. Do not leave them unsupervised and keep them away from flammable and combustible materials. Make sure they are completely out before leaving the room or going to bed and be careful when extinguishing them so that pieces of burning wick or sparks are not blown into places where a fire can start.

3. We need to remember to keep space heaters away from combustibles in a safe place where they don’t become a trip or burn hazard and never use them in an area where flammable liquids are being used or stored. Make sure to plug them directly into a receptacle and unplug them when they are not in use.

4. Be careful not to overload a circuit by plugging too many power cords into one receptacle. Have faulty electrical equipment repaired by a professional before trying to use it. Do not cover power cords with rugs or pinch them in doors or windows and unplug small appliances when you are not using them.

5. Kitchen fires continue to be the No. 1 cause of house fires in Vernon. Please do not leave cooking unattended. Use a tight fitting lid to smother flames and never throw water on a grease fire.

6. Have a plan. Know what you are going to do if you have a fire. Make a home escape plan. Plan for two ways out. Call the fire department when you are outside your home and never go back in until the fire department says it is safe.

7. We are still having too many people hit by cars. Pedestrians, make sure that drivers see you and have come to a complete stop before crossing a street. Wear light-coloured or high-visibility clothing that will make you easily seen by drivers if you are going to be crossing or walking on roads at night. Drivers, slow down and be prepared to stop for people crossing in front of you.

8. Please stop using flower pots and planter boxes for ashtrays. They generally contain potting soil which is made up of organic material mixed with chemical fertilizers and will burn extremely well with the help of a little heat and wind, especially when it is dry.

9. If you are burning solid fuel you need to keep your chimneys clean. Have a properly trained technician clean them properly. Fireplace chimney-cleaning logs are not recognized by the B.C. Fire Code as a proper means of cleaning a chimney.

10.  Finally, our record-breaking snow fall definitely initiated some people’s concern as to what happens during a large event emergency. The fact is that you need to be prepared to be on your own for the first little while.

Experts suggest that personal preparedness is important and that people should prepare themselves to be on their own for at least 72 hours as emergency workers help those in most critical need.

So this year, help us help you. Let’s make 2015 a record-breaking year for people being safe.

It is worth the effort. Be careful and be fire smart.

Ensure that you and your family enjoy life to the fullest and have a  very safe and happy new year.

Lawrie Skolrood is a deputy chief with Vernon Fire Rescue Services.