Problem: Smoke alarms sound, or five is discovered in home.
Background: In case of a fire emergency, don’t panic; stay calm. Your safe escape may depend on clear thinking. Get out of the house as quickly as possible, following any previously planned escape route. Don’t stop to collect anything or to get dressed. Feel the doors to see if they are hot. If they are not, open them carefully. If they are hot, don’t open them and use an alternate escape route. Stay close to the floor because smoke and hot gases rise. Cover your nose and mouth with a cloth (wet if possible) and take short, shallow breaths. Keep doors and windows closed, opening them only if necessary for escape. Call the fire department as soon as possible from outside your house. Never go back inside a burning building.
What to do: If fire does not appear to be present, check entry 2. It’s smart to develop a family escape plan and practice it with your entire family, including small children. Draw a floor plan of your home, and find two ways to exit from every room. There should be one way to get out of each bedroom without opening the door. Explain to children what smoke detector alarms mean, and teach them how to leave the home by themselves if necessary. Show them how to check doors to deter mine whether they are hot before opening them, how to stay close to the floor and crawl if necessary, and how to use an alternate exit if the door is hot and should not be opened.
Decide on a meeting place a safe distance from your home, and make sure your children understand they should wait for you there if a fire occurs. Hold fire drills at least every 6 months and know where to go to call the fire department from outside your home. Keep emergency equipment, such as fire extinguishers, in the house and teach your family how to use them properly.
Special advice: In addition to in stalling smoke detectors, providing fire extinguishers, and developing an escape plan, follow good fire prevention practices. Use smoking materials properly and never smoke in bed. Keep matches and cigarette lighters from children. Store flammable materials in proper containers and never use them near open flames or sparks. Keep electrical appliances in good condition and don’t overload electrical circuits. Also keep stoves, fireplaces, chimneys and barbecue grills free of grease, and make sure they are used properly, away from combustible materials. Make certain portable heaters and open flames, such as candles, are not used near combustible materials. Do not allow rubbish to accumulate.
Helpful hint: Contact your local fire department for more ideas about how to make your home safer from fires, and how to plan your family’s escape.
Problem: Fire in fireplace or wood stove overheats chimney or ignites fire in chimney, accompanied by a loud roaring sound.
Background: A common cause of fires is the over-firing of a stove or fireplace, so that it becomes over heated. This often is the result of building a fire that is too large or too hot. Another cause is an internal fire in the chimney, resulting from an accumulation of soot and tar inside of the chimney. Often internal chimney fires are accelerated in high-efficiency stoves that have controlled drafts and a limited air supply. The build-up is highly flammable and may ignite. Chimney fires can be frightening, and temperatures in side the chimney may reach up to as high as 3,000°F, creating a tremendous updraft that causes a roar.
What to do: The average chimney fire has a duration of 5 minutes or less. Unfortunately, other than calling the fire department, not much can be done during a chimney fire. Extinguish the original fire, if possible. (Some experts suggest dumping large amounts of coarse salt on the fire, then holding a wet blanket over the hearth opening to keep air from entering the chimney.) Do not run water into the hot chimney because this may crack the flue liner or bricks.
Special advice: After a chimney fire has been extinguished, the fire department will inspect your home to make sure it has not been damaged. Do not use the fireplace or stove after a chimney fire until it has been inspected by a chimney expert. To minimize the risk of chimney fires, do not use a fireplace or stove for burning large amounts of paper scraps or wrappings, corrugated boxes, wood shavings, Christmas trees, or wood that contains flammable adhesives (such as plywood or paneling). These materials can burn at temperatures high enough to make chimney damage likely. As a general rule, don’t use more than three or four full-sized logs in your fireplace or other wood-burning device, and have the chimney inspected and cleaned regularly.
Helpful hint: Chemical cleaners can be used to help inhibit soot build-up. (Common rock salt, thrown into the chimney, will not do the job.) Deposits in a chimney can vary from soft and fluffy ash to rock-hard, almost crystalline material. Consider hiring a professional chimney sweep to do the job.
Problem Flames or smoke are coming from appliance.
Background: If an appliance doesn’t work correctly, or if it gives even the slightest shock, disconnect it and get it repaired. Insulation makes appliance cords safe. Replace cords that are worn, broken, or brittle from age or overheating because they can cause a dangerous short circuit and fire. Avoid connecting several appliances through an extension cord, or using octopus-type (multiple outlet) plugs. Run cords in safe, out-of-the-way places.
What to do: If you discover a fire in any appliance, unplug it if possible, or turn off the power at the appliance’s circuit breaker. Call the fire department and explain that there is an electrical fire, and alert anyone else in the home. Don’t put water on the flame; use a fire extinguisher recommended for electrical fires (see below).
Special advice: Only fire extinguishers rated for class C fires and marked with the letter “C” should be used in and around live electrical equipment such as appliances, radios, and TV sets. (Class A fires are those fueled by wood, fabric, paper, rubber, and most plastics; class B fires are fueled by flammable liquids such as oil, gasoline, paint, or grease.) Two kinds of dry-chemical extinguishers are offered for home use: one rated “Multipurpose A:B:C,” which uses monoammonium phosphate against all three classes of fires, and another which uses sodium bicarbonate against class B and class C fires.
Helpful hint: Good locations for fire extinguishers include: the corridor near the door of a bedroom; the end wall cabinet next to a kitchen door; in the hall near the living room; by the tool rack near a shop exit; and the wall close to the doors of either a garage or boat house.