Residents of the City of Wetaskiwin should take a few minutes to consider this year’s Fire Prevention Week theme, “Look, Listen, Learn,” notes H&S Coordinator/Fire Prevention officer James Gilbert.
Speaking by phone from the west fire station Oct. 3, Gilbert said “Look” suggests homeowners check for places where a fire could start and remove the threat. He said home fires usually start in the kitchen and can involve people not watching what they’re cooking.
Another kitchen problem involves cooks leaving flammable materials like towels or mitts too close to the stove while food is cooking.
Gilbert said if a cook has to leave the kitchen while food is cooking, use a timer to remind yourself that the stove is hot.
Also, Gilbert noted that people who are very tired or under the influence of drugs or alcohol should avoid using the stove at all, to reduce the possibility of a fire spreading unnoticed.
One more culprit in the home environment is the space heater. The fire prevention officer stated portable heaters should have other materials no close than three feet from them. He noted newer space heaters sometimes have safety features like auto-shut off, but older ones might have no safety features at all.
He pointed out that homeowners should never leave open flames, even something like a candle, unattended. Also, candles should be extinguished and discarded before they run out of wax; if they burn all the way down, it could ignite other materials. Gilbert suggested homeowners look into faux LED candles as a safe alternative.
Advice for homeowners to “Listen” for trouble: make sure your smoke alarms are located in the hallway outside any room where someone sleeps. Also, a smoke alarm should be located on every level of the home.
Gilbert acknowledged some people have a smoke alarm near their kitchen and it’s always going off because of cooking. The fire prevention officer noted the smoke alarm could probably be re-located to a better place, near a bedroom. He also suggested looking into a new smoke detector that has a “hush” button or newer alarms that have a beep when batteries are low. Gilbert noted both smoke alarms and fire extinguishers are reasonably prices, and was in a local Wetaskiwin hardware store a few days ago and all of them were even on sale.
Gilbert noted the Wetaskiwin Fire Department conducts certain proactive practice nights where they do some door knocking in town and inspect smoke alarms; many times the smoke alarms have the battery remove.
Being alerted to smoke is extremely important in home fires Gilbert noted, as most fatalities in such a fire aren’t caused by flames, but by poisonous smoke.
The last part of the theme, “Learn,” encourages people to learn multiple ways out of their home in event of fire. Gilbert said people should know two ways out, usually a door and a window, and remember to make sure the windows open easily and are free of clutter.
He said some buildings may have bars on the windows; remember to test their hinges to make sure they open easily.
Gilbert suggested learning an escape plan, including a meeting place outside the home a safe distance away that everyone knows. It’s wise to practice the plan regularly just to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Gilbert pointed out an important tip: pay attention to alarms. Don’t assume the alarm is broken or going off for no reason. If you hear an alarm, investigate it.
The fire prevention officer also pointed out it’s a good idea to have a fire extinguisher on every floor of the home plus the garage. Make sure they’re tested or recently purchased; he said during inspection, the Wetaskiwin department has come across fire extinguishers that haven’t been touched sine 1986.