Fires produce toxic gases and dense smoke that can quickly spread throughout your house or apartment. This deadly cloud can fill an entire building even if the fire is limited to a single room. In order to ensure that you and your loved ones will have enough time to escape a fire, you need to be alerted at the first presence of smoke. Therefore, it is crucial that you install and maintain smoke detectors in your home. Smoke detectors should be located on each level of the building, near each sleeping area and at the top of stairwells. Smoke alarms should be placed on the ceiling or, if placed on a wall, 6-12 inches below the ceiling. All smoke alarms should be tested once a month and batteries should be replaced once a year.
Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an invisible, odorless gas that displaces oxygen in your home and in your body. A person who breathes too much CO can suffer from its toxic effects even after he or she has been moved to fresh air. Unfortunately, many household devices can produce carbon monoxide when not functioning properly. Common sources of CO are furnaces, wood stoves, fireplaces, kerosene heaters and motor vehicles. In addition, the exhaust from gasoline powered devices (generators, chainsaws, etc.) will contribute to high levels of CO if adequate ventilation is not provided. CO detectors alert occupants when CO levels begin to climb within an area. At a minimum, detectors should be placed outside of sleeping areas. Because CO has nearly the same density as air, CO detectors can be placed at any height on a wall or ceiling. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when installing a new detector. The United States Fire Administration offers the following advice:
- Have a qualified professional check all fuel burning appliances, furnaces, venting and chimney systems at least once a year.
- Never use your range or oven to help heat your home and never use a charcoal grill or hibachi in your home or garage.
- Never keep a car running in a garage. Even if the garage doors are open, normal circulation will not provide enough fresh air to reliably prevent a dangerous buildup of CO.
- When purchasing an existing home, have a qualified technician evaluate the integrity of the heating and cooking systems, as well as the sealed spaces between the garage and house. The presence of a carbon monoxide alarm in your home can save your life in the event of CO buildup.
- Never operate gas powered equipment indoors without adequate ventilation.
- Know the common symptoms of CO poisoning: headache, nausea, dizziness, chest pain and fatigue.
If you or anyone you live with experiences these symptoms, or if your CO detector activates, follow these steps:
If anyone is feeling ill:
1.Evacuate all occupants immediately.
2.Call 911 and when relaying information to the dispatcher, include the number of people feeling ill.
3.Do not re-enter the home without the approval of a fire department representative.
4.Call a qualified professional to repair the source of the CO.
If no one is feeling ill:
1. Silence the alarm.
2. Turn off all appliances and sources of combustion (i.e. furnace and fireplace).
3. Ventilate the house with fresh air by opening doors and windows.
4. Call a qualified professional to investigate the source of the possible CO buildup.
Natural gas is a fossil fuel that is produced deep in the earth’s crust. It is composed primarily of methane, but also contains traces of other hydrocarbons. In its normal state natural gas is colorless and odorless. The pungent, rotten-egg smell that is usually associated with natural gas is actually an odorant called mercaptan. Mercaptan is added to help identify hazardous natural gas leaks. Leaks occur because of faulty gas appliances and gas piping systems. If you notice the smell of natural gas in your home or any other structure, leave immediately and call the local gas utility company or 911 from a remote location. Do not make calls from within the affected building, do not turn any light switches on or off, do not use or unplug any electrical appliances and do not light a match or other combustible material. Spark or flame could result in an explosion.