Following recent home fires, a West Virginia University fire safety expert is offering important tips to help people reduce fire risks and stay safe, especially when using alternative heat sources.
“With colder temperatures making their way across the nation, people will be using space heaters and other heating sources to try to keep warm. It’s important to understand the safety hazards these sources of heat can present. Be sure to turn off radiant or electric space heaters before going to bed, especially older models that are prone to tipping over and have no safety shutoff abilities. I also would encourage you not to leave them on when leaving your home.
“In some recent fire fatalities in West Virginia and elsewhere, the investigators have concluded there were no working smoke detectors. Having working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to save your family and yourself. Ensure smoke alarms are installed on every level of your home, including near sleeping areas. Test your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms monthly and replace the batteries at least once a year.
“If you need smoke detectors for your home, you can reach out to the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s office. Some local fire departments also offer free smoke detectors. For renters, landlords are required to provide smoke detectors, as well as carbon monoxide detectors if the rental unit has gas. It’s up to the renter to regularly test and replace batteries in those alarms.
“Sleep with your doors closed. Doing so increases your likelihood of getting out alive by 70%. Be sure to close the doors and remove anything blocking the doors so you have a clear path for escape.
“Most importantly, always have an escape plan. We encourage you to do this with your family when you move into your home and review the plan regularly. Always include two ways out of your home or apartment. Designate a meeting place outside the home and make sure everyone knows how to call 911 in case of an emergency. Once you leave the home, never go back in, not even to get your pet or your valuables.” — Mark Lambert, Fire Service Extension director and assistant professor, WVU Extension Service
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