Friday, December 19, 2014
   
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’Tis the season for fire safety awareness

Ballmer: Electrical cords biggest culprits.

Pinched or damaged electrical cords can be blamed for starting at least three recent fires in Gothenburg.

If electrical cords are tightly coiled, they don’t dissipate heat evenly and could start a fire, according to local fire chief Mark Ballmer.

“They can get pinched behind furniture pushed up against them,” Ballmer explained.

Using proper extension cords and circuits that match the amperage of electrical devices—like space heaters—is also important, he said.

“Don’t leave the house or go to sleep with a space heater running,” he cautioned. “And don’t put things too close to them.”

Overloaded electrical outlets have also caused fires, Ballmer said.

“If you’re blowing circuits, you’re overtaxing the breaker,” he said, noting that too many cords plugged into a power strip can also create an electrical overload.

Candles left burning have also been a common source of house fires.

Ballmer said candles need to be watched closely because catastrophes can happen quickly if a child or pet knocks them over.

Reviewing family escape plans, in case of fire, is also important.

“It’s important to have a Plan A and B in case the first plan doesn’t work,” Ballmer said.

At night, if a fire starts, the fire chief advised occupants to crawl from bed to the door.

Cool to the touch means the door can be opened but if it’s hot, don’t go through it and proceed to Plan B, he said.

Upstairs bedrooms may mean investing in a collapsible ladder, he said, which can be hooked and thrown out a window so home owners can climb to safety.

A secondary escape route from basement bedrooms, if the main path is impassable, could be through a specially designed window that opens to the outside.

Once outside, Ballmer said family members need to meet at a pre-selected destination, such as near a designated tree or on a front sidewalk, to make sure no one is left inside.

Smoke alarms that function, and are installed on every floor of the house, are a must.

Locations, Ballmer suggested, include near sleeping quarters, kitchens and by furnaces.

Batteries should be changed yearly or twice yearly, he said. noting that some home owners do this during the time change in the fall and spring.

“Why risk your life over the life a battery?” he asked.

Alarms that detect carbon monoxide are also important.

Installing them near furnaces is probably the best place, Ballmer said.

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