May is National Electrical Safety Month and E.S.C.A.P.E. Fire Safety wants to raise the public’s awareness about potential electrical home hazards and the importance of electrical safety. Practicing fire safety is especially important with more people staying home during Michigan’s Stay Home-Stay Safe executive order. Home fires have claimed the lives of 57 Michiganders since January 1st (a 46% increase over the same period – Jan 1 – May 1, 2019).
Look around for electrical hazards in your home and correct them. Items such as electrical cords under rugs or pinched behind furniture, overloaded outlets, and laptops and phones charging on beds or sofas can expose you and your family to the risk of fire.
According to the United States Fire Administration, electrical fires in our homes claim the lives of 485 Americans each year and injure 2,305 more. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) research indicates there are approximately 45,000 home electrical fires each year throughout the United States. Some of these fires are caused by electrical system failures and appliance defects, but many more are caused by the misuse and poor maintenance of electrical appliances, incorrectly installed wiring, and overloaded circuits and extension cords. Half of all home electrical fires involve lighting equipment or home electrical wiring and most electrical wiring fires start in the bedroom. Home electrical fire deaths peak between midnight and 8:00 a.m.
The following are tips to assist you in preventing electrical fires:
Have a licensed electrician examine your electrical system every ten years. All electrical work should be done by a licensed electrician who has first obtained a permit when required. The permit process helps protect homeowners that the work is done correctly.
Inspect all extension cords. Discard any that are cracked or frayed and replace with new ones having a certification label from an independent testing laboratory. Never nail a cord or wire to the wall.
Cords should be used according to their ratings (indoor or outdoor use) and according to the power needs of the appliance that is being plugged in.
When unplugging any cord, do so by grasping the plug end. Do not pull on the cord as this over time can cause the cord to fail.
Make sure you have ground fault breakers installed in your bathroom and kitchen.
Keep hot irons and curling irons out of reach of small children.
When leaving laptop computers, iPads, and cell phones charging, have them on a solid surface such as a desk or countertop. Leaving them on a bed, couch or chair can cause them to overheat and catch the material on fire.
Potential Warning Signs and Hazards
Call your local fire department immediately if you have warning signs such as arcs, sparks, or short circuits. Other warning signs include hearing a sizzling or buzzing sound or a light smell of something burning. Immediate attention to these signs can save lives.
Call a professional electrician soon if you have any of these warning signs:
Frequently blown fuses or tripped circuit breakers;
Dim or flickering lights, bulbs that wear out too fast;
Overheated plugs, cords or switches;
Shock or mild tingle – more than normal static electricity;
Loose plugs; or unusually warm or faulty outlets or switches.
Everyone in your family should practice fire safety everyday because Fire Is Everyone’s Fight® Where You Live!
Smoke alarms are vital resources in any home, but especially where children live. 2013 ended as the worst year for civilian fire deaths in Michigan that we haven’t seen since 1999. The rise in fire fatalities occurred in homes that didn’t have working smoke alarms. Sometimes the smoke alarm battery is removed because of a nuisance alarm (caused by cooking or steam from the shower), or when the smoke alarm “chirps” due to a low battery. These loud and unexpected noises often scare young children.
My friends from E.S.C.A.P.E. Fire & Safety offer these tips to introduce the sound of a smoke alarm and talk about fire safety to children early and often:
Talk about fire safety with your kids in their home, where they feel secure. It’s never too early to begin discussions about who firefighters are, what a family escape map is, and how and when to go to a neighbor’s house during a fire or smoke emergency.
Practice home fire drills on a regular basis. This can decrease anxiety and allow children to respond calmly.
Teach children that the smoke alarm gives an early warning so everyone can get out of the house safely.
Begin to practice by pretending the alarm has gone off, and have the child leave the house quickly and calmly.
Next, place a pillow over the alarm, or place duct tape or electrical tape over the horn of the smoke alarm to muffle the sound. Press the test button to activate the alarm and introduce the softer sound to the child.
Once the child is comfortable with the softer sound of the smoke alarm, remove the tape and allow him or her to hear the actual sound.
Set the alarm off on purpose and practice leaving the house again.
During fire drills, practice leaving the house from different rooms so children get used to doing so.
Practice a fire drill at night, after children have gone to sleep since some children may sleep through the sound of a smoke alarm.
If your child’s fear about the smoke alarm continues, especially when it’s activated in school, have a short meeting with your child’s teacher to explain the issue. The teacher may be able to devote extra class time to discussions about what happens during a fire drill. Often when students have the chance to talk about their smoke alarm fears with their classmates, they will realize it’s not as scary as it seems.
Finally, some children with a form of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may experience sensory overload and may not be able to initially handle high-pitched noises, such as the sound of a smoke alarm. The blaring noise may prevent the child from thinking or comprehending the appropriate action to take and cause him or her to freeze or hide. A scared child won’t be able to learn and may not remember what to do during an emergency. Again, to introduce children with ASD to the sound of a smoke alarm, try placing a pillow or heavy tape over the horn. Once the test button is depressed, the sound level emitted during the drill will be reduced and the child won’t experience pain and will less likely to become scared. There are even smoke alarms available where a parent can record their own voice into the alarm. During an alarm activation the parent’s voice will speak to the child alerting him or her to Get Out and Stay Out during fire or smoke conditions.
With lots of patience, positive reinforcement and encouragement, you can teach children ways to reduce the anxiety and fear from the sound of a smoke alarm. They will understand what to do and where to go during fire or smoke conditions.
Many college-related fires result from a general lack of knowledge about fire safety. Since 2000, 86 fatal fires have occurred on U.S. college campuses, in Greek housing, or in off-campus housing within three miles of the campus.
According to the United States Fire Administration, more than 80% of campus fire fatalities occur in off-campus housing. This has a direct impact on the prevention, planning and response activities for fire and emergency services departments located near colleges and universities.
Important fire facts
On average, ten students die annually in campus related fires, according to the Center for Campus Fire Safety.
Four out of five campus-related fire deaths occur in off-campus housing where approximately two-thirds of our students live.
Alcohol is a factor in many of these fire related deaths. Alcohol abuse impairs judgment and hampers evacuation efforts.
An estimated 3,800 campus fires occur each year in the United States.
Cooking causes more than two-thirds of fire injuries at college campuses, followed by careless smoking, arson, unattended candles, and the overloading of extension cords and power strips.
Here are some fire safety tips that could save your life
Select a residence hall or off campus housing that has smoke alarms and fire sprinklers. These mitigation devices reduce the risk of dying in a fire by 82%.
Cook only where permitted and never leave cooking unattended.
Don’t smoke. But if you must, only smoke outside of the building.
Do not overload electrical outlets.
Never leave candles unattended, provide a one-foot circle of safety clear of anything that might come in contact with the candle like table clothes, curtains, or papers and put candles out after each use.
Always have and practice an escape plan.
Look for an alternate exit from every room whether at a party or in class.
If you must escape through smoke, Get Low and Go under the smoke toward an exit.
By following these tips, injuries and even deaths will be prevented. Fire Is Everyone’s Fight ™ Where You Live!
Pack up the family and get out of the house on Tuesday, August 5, for the 31st annual National Night Out. The goal of National Night Out is to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness, generate support for and participation in local anti-crime efforts, encourage police and community cooperation, and demonstrate neighborhood unity in fighting crime and deterioration.
On Tuesday night, August 5, residents are asked to lock their doors, turn on outside lights, and spend the evening outdoors on the porches, lawns, streets, or in parks with their neighbors. Many neighborhoods throughout West Michigan will be hosting a variety of special events.
One big event planned in Kent County Michigan is the South Kent Night Out Against Crime. It will take place from 4 to 8 p.m. at 1515 Eastport Drive SE in Grand Rapids, behind Peppino’s Restaurant. It will be a great time for the whole family with food, a Ronald McDonald magic show, motorcycle stunt team, mascots, the E.S.C.A.P.E. mobile training center, and more. Admission is free!
Jake The Fire Safety Dog, Crusier from Craig’s Cruiser McGruff the Crime Prevention Dog thanks to our friends at EPS Security, and Grandma On The Go, Joy from eightWest and WOOD TV 8 will all be on site to meet guests of the South Kent County National Night Out event.
Trenten Dollaway of Battle Creek is the One Millionth person to go through the E.S.C.A.P.E. smoke demonstration trailer. He and his family won the grand prize to the Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City, free tickets to the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, free passes to Craig’s Cruisers fun center in Wyoming, Michigan, free haircuts courtesy of Coachlite Cutters Barber Shop in Portage, a free Meijer gas card thanks to our friends at Liberty Mutual Insurance, and gift card from EPS Security. Free E.S.C.A.P.E. T-shirts and baseball caps were also very popular for Trenten and his family!
The E.S.C.A.P.E. Fire Safety Program recognized its one millionth child to learn about fire safety inside the Mobile Training Center in Battle Creek on July 31st.