Safety tips remain a hot topic with fire rescue personnel, especially with the National Fire Protection Association’s annual Fire Prevention Week, which, this year, is Oct. 9-15.
Lt. Jonathan Evans, public education officer for the Myrtle Beach Fire Department, discussed outreach for the week, for which the theme this year is “Don’t Wait – Check the Date! Replace Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years.” Fire safety not only matters at home; it’s always a vital double check to take in the workplace, too.
Evans will get a jump on Fire Prevention Week, with presentations among classrooms at Myrtle Beach Primary School, this Monday through Friday, Also, the city’s Fire Prevention Expo and Open House is 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 15 at Station 3, 2108 S. Kings Highway.
Question | Fulfilling the national Fire Prevention Week theme for 2016, I just replaced all five detectors where I live because of that exact, 10-year aging aspect. Also, for at least the past year, Kix Brooks, on his weekly “American Country Countdown” radio show, has touted ads of the Kidde smoke alarms with sealed lithium batteries with a projected 10-year lifespan. How does that technological enhancement make the process better for consumers to help ensure continued safety at home?
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Answer | Smoke detectors with the integrated batteries are a good thing because it helps cut down on the frequency of having to change your batteries every year, and it’s especially good for elderly homeowners who aren’t able to get their detectors as easily. It also gets you in the habit of changing your detectors every 10 years, which should be done anyway, so in essence, it makes it easier and safer to have one of these units instead of the older, more traditional models.
Q. | Also, for folks who have the more classic type detectors, which merit replacement of 9-volt batteries about every six months – amid the change to and from daylight saving time – how often should every unit, including those with lithium, be tested with the press of a button to hear that safety beep? Once a week? Once a month?
A. | Every smoke detector should be tested at least once a month, and the batteries should be changed at least once a year. Some 9 volts are touted as being good for 10 years, so if you have those batteries, then they don’t necessarily need to be changed as often. If the detector starts chirping, though, it’s probably a good idea to change all of the batteries so that all of them will have fresh batteries at the same time. Don’t just take the detector down and discard if it chirps, because it can’t help you if it’s disabled.
Q. | What makes Fire Prevention Week observed nationwide an even tighter bond among firefighters everywhere, never mind the message about fire safety being something that you and colleagues work, eat and sleep with every day of the year?
A. | Fire Prevention Week is something that means a lot to the fire service. It was begun in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire, which started Oct. 8, 1871, and burned for 36 hours before it was under control. From that fire, 900,000 people became homeless, 300 died, and 2,000 acres were destroyed, and the fire service learned a valuable lesson. Many things went wrong with that fire, and since then, it has been the mission of the fire service to educate and protect the public as much as possible. Every day, new advancements and safety measures are coming out, and at the Myrtle Beach Fire Department, it is our mission – as it is every fire department’s – to educate the public so that fires can be prevented from happening, and no one has to go through the ordeal of losing their possessions, loved ones, or their own life.
Q. | Amid the schools you will visit to help educate everyone for the week, how is the message or content different, say for Myrtle Beach Primary kids, than to a group of adults?
A. | When it comes to fire education, or any education, the key is to know your audience and what information is needed to get your message across effectively. For the younger groups, we focus on the basics such as “Stop, Drop and Roll” if your clothes catch on fire, “Get Low and Go” under the smoke, and “Get Out of the House and Stay Out.” Always have two ways out of the house, and make sure that you have a meeting place outside. We like to reiterate the importance of learning your address and phone number in case you have to call 911 as well.
For adults, we can focus more on the fire safety messages such as how to prevent grease fires, check your smoke detector once a month and replace it every 10 years, and many other ways to help keep them and their families safe. With older audiences, we typically try to focus on the emergency medical services side more, such as fall prevention or keeping a log of your medical information handy and updated for EMS responders, but we also stress the urgency of cooking safety and proper space heater use.
Q. | A few years ago at a Myrtle Beach city neighborhood watch meeting, a fire marshal said clogged dryer vents are a main source of fires in hotels. Twice a year at home, I detach the duct work from our home clothes dryer and vacuum up lint fragments that slip through, and with a leaf blower, I blast out the exhaust duct work leading outdoors. Besides the necessity of cleaning the lint filter after every dryer load, what other household appliances and machinery deserve more attention, say, unplugging toasters when they're not in use?
A. | It is definitely a good idea to keep your dryer vents and lint filter clean. Other areas to look at would be unplugging unnecessary kitchen appliances so that they’re not electrically charged while not in use. Also make sure that none of the cords to your appliances are crimped, because over time, they could wear and start to fail, causing a fire. Make sure that you use surge protectors around your house, that everything is plugged in securely, and that you are not plugging another surge protector into it, for that could overload the unit and cause a fire.
Q. | What key steps remain the most important overall fire prevention preparations to take, and what is forgotten way too easily?
A. | The dryer is probably the biggest offender for being forgotten, but really it just comes down to being cautious and pay attention to what you’re doing when your using heat or fire. The biggest thing to remember about fire safety is, don’t take fire for granted. Fires don’t need much to get started, and if the right elements are there, then it could be disastrous.
Q. | With the frequency and ferocity of thunderstorms with lightning in our area, what safeguards are too easily forgotten to take during such fiery blasts by Mother Nature? Staying off the telephone is one tip articulated many years ago when land lines reigned. What use of other devices, even with attached surge protectors, should be avoided for the duration of any storm?
A. | Lightning is one of nature’s most amazing things. As cool as it might be to see lightning strikes from a far, when they get close, they can be deadly. If you’re outside when lightning strikes, you need to get inside as soon as possible. You should stay out of tubs and showers with the water running, and if you don’t have your things plugged into a surge protector, then you should unplug them. Lightning likes to find the tallest metal object also, so stay away from anything that fits that description. Above all else, if you can see it or hear thunder, you’re close enough to get shocked, so get inside a house or vehicle as soon as possible.
Q. | In this cell-phone age, what safety measures are needed when it comes to charging such devices, and not letting them sit too long for juice?
A. | As we’ve seen with some phones and other electronic devices, it doesn’t take much for them to overload. With some products, it’s a manufacturer defect (Samsung Note7), but other times it can come from using a charger that is not rated for that device. You should always and only ever use the charger that is provided or one that is specifically made for that device by that manufacturer. Sometimes third-party chargers might charge the device too fast, which is why the battery explodes. Also if the battery is full, it’s a good idea to unplug it so that it doesn’t cause a problem or ruin the battery.
Contact STEVE PALISIN at 843-444-1764.
For more information
WHAT: National Fire Protection Association’s annual Fire Prevention Week
THEME: “Don’t Wait – Check the Date! Replace Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years.”
WHEN: Oct. 9-15
INFORMATION: 800-344-3555 or www.nfpa.org
ALSO: Contact your local fire department for fire prevention matters, such as –
▪ Horry County Fire Rescue, with Kathy Nieuwenhuis, public education, 843-915-5190, or email email@example.com.
▪ North Myrtle Beach Fire Rescue (www.horrycountyfirerescue.com), with Fire Marshal Greg Frazier, 843-280-5614, or email firstname.lastname@example.org; and Fire Inspector Ed Hughes, at 843-280-5517. or email email@example.com.
▪ Georgetown City Fire Department (www.georgetowncityfire.org), with Fire Prevention Bureau, 843-546-6722.
▪ Georgetown County Fire Department (www.georgetowncountysc.org/county_fire), 843-545-3271.
SOME SAFETY PROVIDERS’ EVENTS: All free –
▪ Open house, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday at Surfside Beach Fire Department, 810 First Ave. N., behind Surfside Beach Town Hall, 115 U.S. 17 Business N.
▪ Community Law Enforcement Appreciation Committee’s “Connecting Cops, Kids & the Community Cookout,” noon-4 p.m. Saturday in Myrtle Beach’s Grand Park, Shelters A and C, off Forbus Court and Farrow Parkway, across from The Market Common. 843-251-2061 or 843-385-3963.
▪ Open house, 7-9 p.m. Oct. 12 at Loris Fire Department, 3909 Walnut St. 843-756-4004, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
▪ Annual Fire Prevention Expo and Open House, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 15 at Myrtle Beach Fire Department Station 3/Training Academy, 2108 S. Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach. 843-918-1221.