Fire extinguishers will generally have a label explaining how to use the fire extinguisher and what types of fires it is effective against. (mgnonline.com)
Last Modified: Monday, August 13, 2012 1:34 PM
Sixty-two percent of reported home fire deaths in 2010 were the result of either no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms, according to the National Fire Prevention Association.
Also in 2010, on average, one fire department in the U.S. responded to a fire every 24 seconds, one home structure fire was reported every 85 seconds, and one civilian fire death occurred every 2 hours and 49 minutes.
Fire safety should be a big concern to homeowners, as fire can quickly cause extensive damage that is often irreversible and sometimes life-threatening. By taking a few simple precautions, however, the threat of fires may be held at bay.
Capt. Caldwell Fontenot, fire prevention officer with the Lake Charles Fire Department’s Fire Prevention Division, said the most important thing for homeowners regarding fire safety is to have smoke detectors.
“You can’t be safe unless you know there’s a fire,” he said.
Ron Foreman, director of Bayou Fire and Security, said his company provides residential and commercial security and fire extinguisher services, including inspections, to the Lake Charles area.
“Up to 65 percent of smoke detectors are found to be not working or disconnected,” Foreman said.
Foreman suggested having smoke detectors integrated into your home security system, if you have one, so that if a fire occurs while you are away, the security service can respond to the fire and call emergency services.
Foreman said most insurance companies will give homeowners a 5 percent discount for having a fire extinguisher or extinguishers, a 5 percent discount for having smoke detectors and a 5 percent discount for having dead bolt locks.
Fontenot recommended having smoke detectors on every level of your home and keeping fire extinguishers near “high hazard” areas, such as the kitchen or utility room. He also recommended storing flammable liquids away from sources of heat.
Aside from handheld fire extinguishers, Fontenot said that for areas of your home where you have more than two electronic devices or appliances plugged in, such as your computer desk, ground fault interrupters can be a useful tool. Ground fault interrupters automatically interrupt electrical circuits that are overloaded.
Foreman said homeowners should keep these things in mind:
• Be aware of possible hazards and have an escape plan.
• Know where your fire extinguishers are and make sure they are accessible in case of a fire.
• Buy smoke detectors and check their condition annually.
• Installing a sprinkler system can vastly improve your safety.
“No one has ever died in a fully sprinkled, properly sprinkled building,” Foreman said.
“Most residential sprinkler systems cost a little over $1 per square foot. The front door costs, in most cases, $1,500 to $2,000. That’s the cost of a sprinkler system. And what’s the first thing the fire department’s going to do with their ax when they get to your house? They bust down your door.”
Foreman said most sprinkler heads will put out a fire in 15 to 20 seconds, saving you time and reducing water and fire damage done to your home.
Foreman recommends having a 21⁄2- to 5-pound ABC fire extinguisher in your home. ABC designates the types of fires that the contents of the fire extinguisher can suppress. Type A extinguishers cover wood, paper and trash fires. Type B extinguishers cover liquid fires. Type C are for electrical fires, and type K are for grease fires.
“Fire extinguishers are your first line of defense,” Foreman added.
When using fire extinguishers, Foreman recommends using the P.A.S.S. method:
• Pull the pin.
• Aim the hose or opening.
• Squeeze the lever.
• Sweep the fire retardant over the base of the fire.
“You don’t want to wait until you have (a) fire to start reading your fire extinguisher,” Foreman said.
Fontenot said that, in his experience, cooking fires are the most common type of fire. They include unattended food, grease fires and oven fires. The next two most common types are small electrical fires and dryer fires (caused by accumulated lint). Untidy homes, closets or garages can contribute to the risk of a fire occurring or spreading.
Foreman said living room fires are also common because of incidents with Christmas trees.
“I would suggest (homeowners) call the fire department for any type of fire emergency or even if there’s a doubt that they may possibly have a fire emergency,” Fontenot said.
“There’s no reason not to call. It’s always safer to have us take care of it than to try and do it themselves.”
The following are fire safety tips provided by the city of Lake Charles website:
• Test and clean smoke alarms monthly and change their batteries at least once a year.
• Don’t overload electrical circuits and don’t plug in appliances with frayed or worn out cords.
• When cooking, turn pot and pan handles inward, out of children’s reach and don’t leave the stove unattended.
• Ensure windows open easily for use as possible escape routes.
• Sleep with bedroom doors closed to prevent fire from spreading. Never smoke in bed.
• Store paint, thinners and other flammables in their original containers, away from heat, sparks or flame.
For the complete list of tips, go to http://www.cityof lakecharles.com/department/division.php?fDD=9-19.
Fontenot’s department serves the Lake Charles area through a Fire Prevention Bureau consisting of two fire inspectors and two chief inspectors. The bureau inspects commercial properties, investigates fires to determine causes and educates the public about fire safety.
“Every year, during the month of October, we go to every school in the parish and talk to the elementary school kids, teaching them about fire safety in the home, (including) fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, having an exit plan ... (and) how to use a telephone to make emergency phone calls,” Fontenot said.
The department also offers meetings for adults at the Civic Center, where they hand out pamphlets and answer questions. The department publishes reminders about fire safety through occasional articles in the paper.