ADAMS — As National Fire Prevention Week kicks off Sunday, it's a good time to think about household fire prevention and fire safety.
Many dangerous situations are preventable with a little preparation and careful consideration.
The first and most important step is having functioning smoke alarms, said Lt. Josh Carlini with the Adams Area Fire District.
“We recommend there be a smoke alarm, one on every floor and one in each bedroom that somebody sleeps in,” Carlini said.
Batteries should be changed regularly and checked once every six months. Residents should also have a combination smoke/carbon monoxide detector near any heating sources, like the furnace or hot water tank. Carbon monoxide is a product of combustion so any appliance that uses combustion, Carlini said, should have a CO detector.
Smoke alarms should be tested once a month, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
There are alarms with strobe lights for those who are hard of hearing and alarms that can record the sound of a parent's voice for children. All smoke alarms should be replaced when they are 10 years old.
The theme for this year's National Fire Protection Association's Fire Prevention Week is “Every Second Counts — Plan 2 Ways Out.” People should not only have a primary escape route, but also a secondary escape route in case the first is blocked by fire or other obstruction, Carlini said.
“We recommend there be a meeting place outside the residence, and once you're out then do a head count to make sure everyone is there,” Carlini said.
The meeting place should be a permanent structure that is far enough away from the house to be safe from the fire and also visible so that when the fire department arrives, you can see each other and let them know that everyone is out, Carlini said.
They recommend a mailbox, tree, a neighbor's front porch or a light pole.
The National Fire Protection Association recommends people know two ways out of every room, if possible, and to make sure all doors and windows leading outside can easily be opened. People should practice their home fire drill at night and during the day twice a year.
The easiest way to keep everyone safe is to get educated on fire prevention, Carlini said, starting with the youngest members of the family.
“If you have small kids, tell them not to play with candles or matches, make sure they don't play around the stove,” Carlini said.
Cooking equipment was the leading cause of home fires and fire injuries, based on the National Fire Protection Association's Home Structure Fires 2010-2014 report. The leading cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking.
To prevent fires in the kitchen, people should keep flammable items like oven mitts, wooden utensils, towels, curtains and food packaging away from the stovetop and other heat sources. Pot handles should be turned in toward the stove or countertop.
The National Fire Protection Association recommends keeping a “kid-free zone” of at least three feet around the stove and areas where hot foot or drink is being prepared or carried.
When sleeping at night, bedroom doors should be kept closed. If there is a fire in the house, a closed door allows that space to be livable for longer, Carlini said. It slows the spread of smoke, heat and fire.
Laundry rooms and heating or air conditioning units are also common places for fires to start. From 2010 to 2014, fire departments in the U.S. responded to an estimated 15,970 fires involving clothes dryers or washing machines each year. Clothes dryers accounted for 92 percent of the fires, according to the association's report.
Failure to clean the lint was the leading factor of ignition in these home fires and accounts for about a third of dryer fires. People should make sure to regularly clean the lint filter, lint that collects around the drum and lint in the exhaust vent pipe.
Heating equipment and chimneys should be cleaned each year before using them. Failure to clean is the leading factor contributing to home heating fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
The Adams Fire District does fire prevention and fire safety education for schools and daycares in the area in October each year to align with Fire Prevention Week. People can also request a program for their group or at their home by calling the Adams Fire District headquarters at 724-625-1210.