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Safety Equipment

Fire safety equipment has a big impact in reducing the average loss of life and property per fire. If there is a fire in your home, smoke spreads fast, and you need smoke detectors to give you time to get out. Carbon monoxide detectors can detect deadly, odorless gas created when fuels (such as gasoline, wood, natural gas, propane, oil, and methane) burn incompletely.


Smoke Detectors

  • Test your smoke detectors at least once a month, following the manufacturer's instructions. For hard-to-reach units, use a broom handle or stick to press the test button.
  • Replace the batteries in your smoke alarm twice a year, or as soon as the alarm "chirps," warning that the battery is low. HINT: Change your clocks – change your batteries.
  • Never "borrow" a battery from a smoke alarm. Smoke detectors cannot warn you of fire if their batteries are missing or have been disconnected.
  • Do not disable smoke detectors, even temporarily. You may forget to replace the battery.
  • Regularly dusting your smoke detectors following manufacturer's instructions can help keep it working properly.
  • Smoke detectors do not last forever. Replace your smoke detectors once every 10 years. Remember, smoke detectors monitor the air 24 hours a day, every day. After 10 years, it's been on the job for over 87,000 hours.
  • Have a working smoke alarm on each level of your home and outside bedrooms.
  • Make sure that everyone in your home can identify and awaken to the sound of the alarm.
  • Install smoke detectors away from kitchens and bathrooms, where cooking fumes and steam can cause the alarm to sound. See Nuisance Alarm Tips below.
  • Install smoke detectors away from air vents.
  • Install smoke detectors on the ceiling or wall, at least 4 inches from the corners.
  • When affixed to walls, smoke detectors should be between 4 and 12 inches from the ceiling.
  • Plan regular fire drills to ensure that everyone knows exactly what to do when the smoke alarm sounds.

Nuisance Alarms Tips

If a detector regularly responds to cooking smoke or shower steam, consider the following:
  • Replace the detector with one that has the silence button feature.
  • Move the detector further away to give smoke or steam a chance to dissipate before reaching the unit.
  • If ceiling mounted, move unit to a wall.
  • If the detector is the ionization type, replace it with a photoelectric detector. This type of detector is less sensitive to smaller particles, and thus less affected by cooking smoke or small amounts of steam. Packaging and/or owner's manual will indicate type.

Fire Extinguishers

Call 911 any time you are required to use a fire extinguisher. The fire might appear to be out, but heat can often be trapped in places you cannot see and can cause the fire to rekindle. If you call 911 for a fire you extinguished, make sure you advise the dispatcher that the fire is out (thanks to your extinguisher). If you have been alerted of the fire by a smoke detector or fire alarm, chances are this fire is already too big to handle with your extinguisher. Make sure all occupants are out of the house and call 911. Property can be replaced, people cannot.

If you decide that you can safely fight the fire with your extinguisher, you should use the same acronym used by professional firefighters to remember what to do.

PASS stands for

Pull, Aim, Squeeze and Sweep.

  • Pull the pin at the top of the cylinder.
  • Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire.
  • Squeeze the handle.
  • Sweep the contents from side to side at the base of the fire until it is extinguished.

Watch carefully for rekindling of the fire. If it rekindles and your extinguisher is empty, move on to Plan B - leave the room and call 911.

Types of Fire Extinguishers

  • Water and Foam
    Water and foam fire extinguishers extinguish the fire by taking away the heat element of the fire triangle. Foam agents also separate the oxygen element from the other elements.
    Water extinguishers are for Class A fires only - they should not be used on Class B or C fires. The discharge stream could spread the flammable liquid in a Class B fire or could create a shock hazard on a Class C fire.
  • Carbon Dioxide
    Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers extinguish fire by taking away the oxygen element of the fire triangle and removing the heat with a very cold discharge.
    Carbon dioxide can be used on Class B and C fires. They are usually ineffective on Class A fires.
  • Dry Chemical
    Dry chemical fire extinguishers extinguish the fire primarily by interrupting the chemical reaction of the fire triangle.
    Today's most widely used type of fire extinguisher is the multipurpose dry chemical that is effective on Class A, B, and C fires. This agent also works by creating a barrier between the oxygen element and the fuel element on Class A fires.
    Ordinary dry chemical is for Class B and C fires only. It is important to use the correct extinguisher for the type of fuel! Using the incorrect agent can allow the fire to reignite after apparently being extinguished successfully.
  • Wet Chemical
    Wet chemical is a new agent that extinguishes the fire by removing the heat of the fire triangle and prevents reignition by creating a barrier between the oxygen and fuel elements.
    Wet chemical for Class K extinguishers was developed for modern, high-efficiency deep fat fryers in commercial cooking operations. Some may also be used on Class A fires in commercial kitchens.
  • Clean Agent
    Halogenated or clean agent extinguishers include the halon agents as well as the newer and less ozone depleting halocarbon agents. They extinguish the fire by interrupting the chemical reaction and/or removing heat from the fire triangle.
    Clean agent extinguishers are effective on Class A, B and C fires. Smaller sized handheld extinguishers are not large enough to obtain a 1A rating and may carry only a Class B and C rating.
  • Dry Powder
    Dry powder extinguishers are similar to dry chemical except that they extinguish the fire by separating the fuel from the oxygen element or by removing the heat element of the fire triangle.
    However, dry powder extinguishers are for Class D or combustible metal fires, only. They are ineffective on all other classes of fires.
  • Water Mist
    Water mist extinguishers are a recent development that extinguish the fire by taking away the heat element of the fire triangle. They are an alternative to the clean agent extinguishers where contamination is a concern.
    Water mist extinguishers are primarily for Class A fires, although they are safe for use on Class C fires as well.
  • Cartridge Operated Dry Chemical
    Cartridge operated dry chemical fire extinguishers extinguish the fire primarily by interrupting the chemical reaction of the fire triangle.
    Like the stored pressure dry chemical extinguishers, the multipurpose dry chemical is effective on Class A, B, and C fires. This agent also works by creating a barrier between the oxygen element and the fuel element on Class A fires.
    Ordinary dry chemical is for Class B and C fires only. It is important to use the correct extinguisher for the type of fuel! Using the incorrect agent can allow the fire to reignite after apparently being extinguished successfully.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Often called the invisible killer, carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, tasteless, colorless gas created when fuels (such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, and methane) burn incompletely. In the home, heating and cooking equipment that burn fuel are potential sources of carbon monoxide. Vehicles or generators running in an attached garage can also produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.

About 230 people die each year from CO poisoning related to fuel-burning household appliances, such as furnaces, space heaters, water heaters, clothes dryers, kitchen ranges, wood stoves, and fireplaces. Each year, approximately 25 people die and hundreds more suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning when they burn charcoal in enclosed areas such as their homes. Some also burn charcoal in campers, vans, or tents. When inhaled, carbon monoxide is easily absorbed into the blood. The gas is lethal when it replaces the amount of oxygen needed to sustain heart and brain function.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, including headaches, fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, and nausea, are often dismissed as a "touch of the flu," even by doctors.

  • The dangers of CO exposure depend on a number of variables, including the victim's health and activity level. Infants, pregnant women, and people with physical conditions that limit their body's ability to use oxygen (i.e. emphysema, asthma, and heart disease) can be more severely affected by lower concentrations of CO than healthy adults would be.
  • A person can be poisoned by a small amount of CO over a longer period of time or by a large amount of CO over a shorter amount of time.
  • In 2010, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 80,100 non-fire CO incidents in which carbon monoxide was found, or an average of nine calls per hour. The number of incidents increased 96% from 40,900 incidents reported in 2003. This increase is most likely due to the increased use of CO detectors, which alert people to the presence of CO.
  • CO detectors should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home and in other locations where required by applicable laws, codes, or standards. For the best protection, interconnect all CO detectors throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement and mounting height.
  • Choose a CO alarm that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Call your local fire department’s non-emergency number to find out what number to call if the CO alarm sounds.
  • Test CO detectors at least once a month. Replace them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • If the audible trouble signal sounds, check for low batteries. If the battery is low, replace it. If it still sounds, call the fire department.
  • If the CO alarm sounds, immediately move to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door. Make sure everyone inside the home is accounted for, including pets. Call for help from a fresh air location, and stay there until emergency personnel arrives.
  • If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow.
  • During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow buildup.
  • A generator should be used in a well-ventilated location outdoors, away from windows, doors, and vent openings.
  • Gas or charcoal grills can produce CO. They should only be used outside.