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Stay Warm Without Running A Fire Risk
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Subfreezing temperatures send many people seeking warmth any way they can, resulting in deadly house fires each winter season.
Preventing fires involving gas water heaters and flammable vapors is the emphasis of this year's Burn Awareness Week Feb. 6 through 12. According to information released online by the International Shriners, water heater and flammable vapor fires account for about 2,000 fires a year in the United States and lead to more than 300 deaths or injuries.
Dr. Frances Graham, housing specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said even though people know safety issues, many burns occur through carelessness or because people don't recognize the volatility of objects placed near heat or fire sources.
"It's better to be too cautious. Oftentimes instead of an accident resulting in a slight burn, it's a life and death issue," Graham said. "The time to prepare for fire survival is before a fire, not after one."
While this year's burn awareness week focuses on burns caused by gasoline or other flammable vapors, Graham said there are numerous possible fire hazards in homes. Many can be eliminated, improving the safety of everyone living in the house or apartment.
Many fires are caused by incorrect wiring or improper use of electrical outlets. Graham said to make sure rooms have enough outlets to not require multiple attachment plugs. Limit high voltage appliances to just one on a circuit at a time, and turn off all electrical appliances when not in use.
Replace worn or frayed electrical cords and loose prongs in plugs. Keep these cords dry, unbent and in the open. Do not run cords under rugs, through doorways or over heaters.
"Make sure any basements, closets and attics are free of combustible materials such as old rags, papers, mattresses or garbage," Graham said. "Dispose of oily or paint-smeared rags as these could spontaneously combust under the right circumstances, and store paints, varnish or similar products in tightly sealed containers."
Portable heaters should have a switch that cuts them off if tipped over. They should be kept away from doors and stairways to prevent this from happening. Place portable heaters at least three feet from curtains, bedding, furniture and other flammable materials.
"Place smoke detectors close to where people sleep, such as the hallway outside bedrooms," Graham said. "Have on hand a charged, 2 � pound, all-purpose, dry chemical fire extinguisher and make sure everyone in the house knows where it is. Also have a plan for fire escape that everyone knows how to follow."
If there is a fire, the main key to burn prevention is knowing what to do beforehand. Graham cautioned people to sleep with bedroom doors closed to delay the spread of fire and deadly smoke and gas. Know the escape route out of each room and have an alternative route as well. Establish a meeting place outside to confirm that everyone made it out.