Fire Safety Week focuses on some key noises

HANCOCK COUNTY — At one time, when a home caught fire, those inside might have…

HANCOCK COUNTY — At one time, when a home caught fire, those inside might have as long as seven minutes to get out safely. Nowadays, because of the way new homes are built, they might have three minutes or less, experts say.

It’s information like this county firefighters will be sharing during Fire Prevention Week and Fire Prevention Month.

Fire Prevention Week which runs through Saturday, Oct. 9, is recognized locally and throughout the United States as a time to educate the community about fire safety and prevention.

This year’s theme is “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety,” to help people understand what the sounds coming from their smoke alarms mean.

For example, a continuous set of three loud beeps, means smoke or fire is present. A single chirp every 30 or 60 seconds means the battery is low and must be changed.

Beth Gulley, life safety and public information specialist for the Sugar Creek Township Fire Department, said the “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety” theme actually came out of issues associated with the pandemic.

Teachers were hearing, as they were doing virtual learning all over the country, smoke alarms chirping because batteries were not being changed.

“Officials also started realizing people didn’t know the sounds of what a carbon monoxide alarm sounded like, either,” Gulley said.

Experts decided to make this year’s theme about understanding the sounds on alarms.

“We’re learning so many things because of this pandemic, and to me this theme is a positive one,” she said.

Steve Kropacek, fire marshal for the Greenfield Fire Territory, said Fire Prevention Month began in 1925, created by President Calvin Coolidge in recognition of the Great Chicago Fire on Oct. 8, 1871. It is the longest-running public-health observance in the country, according to the National Fire Protection Association website.

“There was also a big fire at the same time up in Wisconsin that burned 16 towns, burned 1.2 million acres and killed 1,100 people,” Kropacek said.

Warning systems like smoke alarms are effective, but only if used properly, officials said.

Smoke alarms need to be replaced after 10 years, and if they are battery-powered, the batteries need to be changed regularly.

The Greenfield Fire Territory has smoke alarms and bed shakers they will help install for people who cannot afford them.

“Out of the many we’ve installed, we’ve had four or five fires and helped save people’s lives,” Kropacek said.

With the way homes are built today, the time to get out of a burning home has been reduced significantly, so it’s important to have working smoke alarms, officials said.

“There’s a lot of plastic in the homes, and a more open concept, so there is no containment, causing homes to just burn a lot faster,” Kropacek said.

The Sugar Creek Township Fire Department gave away dozens of carbon monoxide detectors recently at its fire safety open house thanks to a grant.

“In speaking to people, many didn’t realize just because you don’t have gas appliances in your home doesn’t mean you don’t need a carbon monoxide detector,” Gulley said.

She noted officials are always trying to promote fire safety and that the month of October — heading into cooler weather where people will be using their furnaces and fireplaces — is a great opportunity to remind people about fire safety and prevention measures.

“Our ability to get out there and talk about this kind of message even more than we normally do is huge,” Gulley said. “Having an early warning is paramount.”

Officials with the Vernon Township Fire Department released a video of fire safety tips promoting the month on its Facebook page.

Joel Thacker, the state fire marshal said many home fires are preventable. He noted cooking fires are a major culprit, as is improperly disposing cigarettes, which cause most of the fatal fires.

The biggest thing people can do to stay safe Thacker said is to have properly installed smoke alarms. Another big safety tip: Sleep with your bedroom door closed, because it will keep smoke out and give you more time to escape. And they recommend interconnected smoke alarms.

Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety

Smoke Alarms

• A continued set of three loud beeps means smoke or fire. Get out and call 911. Do not go back inside.

• A single “chirp” every 30 or 60 seconds means the battery is low and must be changed.

• All smoke alarms must be replaced after 10 years.

• Chirping that continues after the battery has been replaced means the alarm is at the end of its life and the unit must be replaced.

Carbon Monoxide Alarms

• A continuous set of four loud beeps means carbon monoxide is present. Go outside and call 911. Do not go back inside.

• A single chirp every 30 or 60 seconds means the battery is low and must be replaced.

• Carbon monoxide alarms also have “end-of-life” sounds that vary by manufacturer. This means it’s time to get a new alarm.

• Chirping that continues after the battery has been replaced means the alarm is at the end of its life and the unit must be replaced.

Source: National Fire Protection Association

Fire safety tips:

• Install smoke alarms in every bedroom. They should also be outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. Install alarms in the basement.

• Large homes may need extra smoke alarms.

• It is best to use interconnected smoke alarms. When one smoke alarm sounds, they all sound.

• Test all smoke alarms at least once a month. Press the test button to be sure the alarm is working.

• Current alarms on the market employ different types of technology including multi-sensing, which could include smoke and carbon monoxide combined.

• Today’s smoke alarms will be more technologically advanced to respond to a multitude of fire conditions, yet mitigate false alarms.

• A smoke alarm should be on the ceiling or high on a wall. Keep smoke alarms away from the kitchen to reduce false alarms. They should be at least 10 feet (3 meters) from the stove.

• People who are hard-of-hearing or deaf can use special alarms. These alarms have strobe lights and bed shakers.

• Replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old.

Source: National Fire Protection Association

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