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City of Alexandria, VA City of Alexandria, VA
Fire Department
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Page updated Feb 7, 2011 3:17 PM
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Fire Safety Information


Fire Prevention Reminders

  • Maintain Smoke Alarms. Test them once a month by pushing the test button.
  • Plan and practice an escape plan. Know two ways out of every room in your home. Make sure windows and doors open easily. Plan around your abilities.
  • Give space heaters space. Keep them at least three feet (one meter) away from anything that can burn.
  • Wear fitted clothing when cooking. Never leave cooking unattended.
  • If you smoke, use large, deep ashtrays. Wet cigarette buts before emptying ashtrays.
  • Stop, Drop, and Roll. If your clothing catches on fire: STOP (don't run). DROP gently to the ground, cover your face with your hands, ROLL over and over to smother the flames.
  • Throw Rugs. Can Throw You. Use only rugs with rubber, no skid backing.
  • Write down your local emergency phone number.

10 Tips for Fire Safety

  1. Install and Maintain Smoke Alarms - Smoke alarms warn you of a fire in time for you to escape. Install them on each level of your home and outside of each sleeping area. Test them every week, following the manufacturer's directions. Replace batteries once a year or whenever a detector chirps to signal that its battery is low. Don't ever borrow detector batteries for other uses-a disabled smoke detector can't save your life!
  2. Plan and Practice Escape - If fire breaks out in your home, you have to get out fast! With your family, plan two ways out of every room. Fire escape routes must not include elevators, which might take you right to the fire. Choose a meeting place outside where everyone will gather. Once you are out, stay out! At least twice a year, have the whole family practice the escape plan.
  3. Space Heaters Need Space - Keep portable heaters and space heaters at least 3 feet (1 meter) from anything that can burn. Never leave heaters on when you leave home or go to bed, and keep children and pets well away from them.
  4. Smokers need Watchers - Carelessly discarded cigarettes are the leading cause of fire deaths in the United States. Never smoke in bed or when you are drowsy! Provide large, deep ashtrays for smokers and put water on butts before discarding them. Before going to bed, check under and around sofa cushions for smoldering cigarettes.
  5. Be Careful Cooking - Never leave cooking unattended. Keep cooking areas clear of combustibles and wear short or tight-fitting sleeves when you cook. Keep the handles of your pots turned inward so the pots can't be knocked or pulled over. If grease catches fire, carefully slide a lid over the pan to smother the flames, then turn off burner. Never put foil or other metals in a microwave oven.
  6. Matches and Lighters Are Tools - In the hands of a child, matches and lighters are deadly. Store them up high where kids can't reach them, preferably in a locked cabinet. And teach your children from the start that matches and lighters are tools for adults, not toys for kids. If children find matches or lighters, they should tell a grown-up immediately.
  7. Use Electricity Safely - If an appliance smokes or has an unusual smell, unplug it immediately and have it repaired. Replace any electrical cord that is cracked or frayed. Don't overload extension cords or run them under rugs. Don't tamper with the fuse box or use fuses of an improper size.
  8. Cool a Burn - If someone gets burned, immediately place the wound in cool water for 10 to 15 minutes. If the burn blisters or chars, see a doctor immediately.
  9. Stop, Drop and Roll - Everyone should know this rule: If your clothes catch fire, don't run! Stop where you are, drop to the ground, cover your face with your hands to protect your face and lungs, and roll over and over to smoother the flames.
  10. Crawl Low Under Smoke - Smoke is dangerous! If you encounter smoke, use an alternate escape route. If you must exit through smoke, the cleanest air will be several inches off the floor. Crawl on your hands and knees to the nearest safe exit.

Home Fire Safety

Home fires in the United States number over 1,100 a day. How safe is your home from fire? Have the whole family study these questions and check for fire hazards. Every "no" points to a fire hazard.

Matches and Careless Smoking Hazards

YES NO
Do you keep matches away from sources of heat such as stoves or heaters?
Do you make sure matches and smoking materials are out before disposing of them?
Do you have plenty of large, non-combustible ashtrays in every room?
Is "No Smoking in Bed" a rule in your home?

Electrical Hazards YES NO
Do you allow only qualified electricians to install or extend your wiring?
Are there enough electrical outlets in every room to avoid the need for multiple attachment plugs and long extension cords?
Do you have special circuits for heavy-duty appliances such as stoves?
Do you use only 15 amp. fuses for your household lighting circuits?
Are all extension cords in the open - not run under rugs, over hooks or through partitions or door openings?

Yard and Garage Hazards YES NO
Do you keep your yard cleared of leaves, debris and combustible rubbish?
If any of the surrounding property is vacant, have weeds, dry leaves and rubbish been cleared off?
If you keep gasoline for use in a power mower or outboard motor, is it stored in a strong, metal safety-type can with self- closing caps on the openings.
If your garage is attached to the house, is it separated by a tight-fitting door which is kept closed?

Housekeeping Hazards YES NO
Do you keep your basement, closets, and attic cleared of old rags, papers, mattresses, broken furniture and other combustible odds and ends?
After using oily polishing rags, do you destroy them; do you place waste in covered metal cans?
If you store paint, varnish, etc., do you keep the containers tightly closed?

To ensure that your home and it's contents are fire safe please visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission's Product Recall web site.

Your Family Fire Safety

Establish and practice family escape plans -- Planning and practicing with an accent on rapid and safe exit from your house is important in the event of fire. Draw a floor plan of your house showing all escape routes. Two escape routes should be planned from each room. An exit route out of the house without opening a bedroom door is essential.

Decide on a meeting place for family members away from the house. See to it that all family members understand the alarm signal and escape plans and are able to follow them without assistance, especially small children. Hold fire drills at least every six months. Maintain emergency equipment such as escape ladders and extinguishers as needed.

What You and Your Family Should Do in Case of a Fire

  1. DON'T PANIC - escape may depend on clear thinking.
  2. Get out of the house following the planned escape routes, if possible. Do not stop to collect valuables or dress.
  3. Open doors carefully only after feeling them to see if they are hot. If they are, do not open - follow an alternate escape route.
  4. Keep close to the floor - smoke and hot gases rise. Breathe through a cloth (wet, if possible) and take short, shallow breaths.
  5. Keep doors and windows closed unless it is necessary to open them for escape.
  6. Meet at your pre-established meeting place after leaving your home.
  7. Call the Fire Department at 911 as soon as possible from outside the building. Give address and name.
  8. Never re-enter a burning building.

Electrical Safety

Appliance
If an appliance repeatedly blows a fuse, trips a circuit breaker, or if it has given you a shock, unplug it and have it repaired or replaced.

Entertainment/Computer Equipment
Check to see that the equipment is in good condition and working properly; look for cracks or damage in wiring, plugs, and connectors. Use a surge protector bearing the seal of a nationally recognized certification agency.

Extension Cords
Check to see that the cords are not overloaded. Additionally, extension cords should only be used on a temporary basis; they are not intended as permanent household wiring. Make sure extension cords have safety closures to help prevent young children from shock hazards and mouth burn injuries.

Halogen Floor Lamps
Halogen floor lamps operate at much higher temperatures than a standard incandescent light bulb. Never place a halogen floor lamp where it could come in contact with draperies, clothing or other combustible materials. Be sure to turn the lamp off whenever you leave the room for an extended period of time and never use touchier lamps in children's bedrooms or playrooms. Metal guards are now required for all halogen touchier lamps. To obtain a free wire guard, visit one of the following stores in your area: Ames, B.J.'s Wholesale Club, Hechingers, Home Base, Home Depot, Home Quarters, Ikea, Kmart, Lowes, Montgomery Ward, Office Depot, Target or Walmart. If you cannot get to one of these stores, you may write to Dana Lighting, 55 Norfolk Ave, Easton, Massachusetts 02375, Attn: Consumer Services. Please include your name, address, and number of guards needed. It will take approximately 8-10 weeks for delivery.

Water and Electricity Don't Mix
Don't leave plugged in appliances where they might come into contact with water. If a plugged-in appliance falls into water, NEVER reach in to pull it out - even if it's turned off. First turn off the power source at the panel board and then unplug the appliance. If you have an appliance that has gotten wet, don't use it until it has been checked by a qualified repair person.

Plugs
Make sure your plugs fit your outlets. Never remove the ground pin (the third prong) to make three-prong plug fit a two-conductor outlet; this could lead to an electrical shock. NEVER FORCE A PLUG INTO AN OUTLET IF IT DOESN'T FIT. Plugs should fit securely into outlets. Avoid overloading outlets with too many appliances.

Space Heaters
Space heaters are meant to supply supplemental heat. keep space heaters at least 3 ft. away from any combustible materials such as bedding, clothing, draperies, furniture, and rugs. Don't use in rooms where children are unsupervised and remember to turn off and unplug when not in use.


Halogen Lamp Safety

Halogen lamps can pose serious hazards if safety precautions are not strictly observed. Since becoming available in the United States in 1983, halogen lamps have proved popular sources of home and office lighting. Halogen touchier-style floor lamps are free-standing lamps with a shallow bowl-shaped light fixture mounted on top of a six-foot pole and illuminated by a tubular halogen bulb. The tubular halogen bulbs operate at temperatures much hotter than fluorescent or incandescent bulbs, and can pose a fire risk if curtains, clothing, or other flammable materials contact the bulb.

Since 1997, a number of design changes have been required by Underwriters Laboratory (UL) to improve the safety of halogen touchier lamps, but lamp users or owners must still pay close attention to how the lamp is placed and used. Underwriters Laboratory suggests that the following precautions be taken:

  • Carefully read any and all safety instructions, warnings and markings that accompany the product before using it.
  • Never place a touchier lamp near an open window where a strong breeze could blow drapery onto the lamp bulb.
  • Never place materials such as clothing and towels on the top of a touchier lamp or where they might accidentally come in contact with it.
  • Avoid placing lamps in locations where they may be easily tipped over by children or pets.
  • Never use touchier lamps in children's bedrooms or playrooms. Children may play with lamps or unknowingly place combustibles, such as stuffed toys or clothing, too close to the bulb area.
  • Keep touchier lamps away from elevated beds, such as bunk beds, where bedding may get too close to the bulb area.
  • Always turn off or unplug the lamp before removing or replacing bulbs.
  • Never attempt to replace or discard a bulb that is hot to the touch.
  • Never use a bulb of a different style or higher wattage than recommended by the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Never operate any lamp with missing or damaged parts or components.
  • Avoid leaving high-wattage (more than 100 watts) halogen lamps on when you leave the room or when you are not at home.

If you have a halogen touchier lamp in your home that was manufactured and purchased prior to February 5, 1997, UL recommends that you use a bulb rates 300 watts or less. For older lamps, a free wire guard for the lamp can be obtained by contacting Dana Lighting, 55 Norfolk Avenue, Easton, MA 02372, Attn.: Consumer Services. Installing a wire guard over the lamp will reduce the potential of fire hazards by making it harder for flammable materials to come in contact with the halogen bulb.

For further information on halogen touchier lamp safety, call Underwriter Laboratory's toll-free information line at 800-787-8540 or visit their web site at www.ul.com.


Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: How Early Warning Can Help Save Your Life

What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, deadly gas. Because you can't see, taste, or smell it, carbon monoxide can kill you before you know it's there. Today's more energy efficient, airtight home designs contribute to the problem by trapping CO-polluted air inside the home.

Why is carbon monoxide so dangerous?
The great danger of carbon monoxide is its attraction to hemoglobin in the bloodstream. CO is breathed in through the lungs, and bonds with hemoglobin in your blood, displacing the oxygen which cells need to function. When CO is present in the air it rapidly accumulates in the blood. It will eventually displace enough oxygen in your system to suffocate you from the inside out, resulting in brain damage or death.

Where does carbon monoxide occur?
Everyone is at risk. Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere. Experts believes that vulnerability to CO poisoning increases for unborn babies, infants, senior citizens, and people with coronary or respiratory problems. These people are considered to be at greatest risk.

How can I protect myself from carbon monoxide poisoning?
The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends installing at least one carbon monoxide detector per household. Reliable, cost-effective protection from carbon monoxide poisoning is now available from local hardware stores. According to the CPSC Chairman, "Carbon monoxide detectors are as important to home safety as smoke detectors."

How do I know if I am suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning?
CO poisoning is difficult to diagnose. Because its symptoms are similar to other common diseases, such as the flu, carbon monoxide is often called "The Great Imitator." Symptoms of low level CO poisoning can include headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizzy spells, and confusion. There are, however, a few hints that can help.

To identify carbon monoxide poisoning in your home:

  • Are other members of the household feeling ill as well?
  • Do you feel better when you are away from the house for a period of time?

If so, you may be suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning. To be sure, see a physician and request a carboxyhemoglobin test. This will determine the percentage of carbon monoxide present in your blood.

What do I do if my carbon monoxide detector goes off?
Get out of the house immediately. Have a plan that includes a pre-designated meeting place so that all family members can be accounted for. (Most fatalities occur when people re-enter the home to search for loved ones.) Call 911 from a neighbor's home. Do not re-enter until the Fire Department tells you it is okay to do so. Discuss the source of carbon monoxide with a Fire Official and have it repaired immediately.

Where do I put my carbon monoxide detector?
Near the sleeping area, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which recommends at least one detector per household. A second detector located near the home's heating source adds an extra measure of safety.


Fall Prevention Reminders

  • Look out for yourself. See an eye specialist once a year. Use night lights to light the path between your hallway and the bedroom.
  • Tread carefully. Stairways should be well lit from both top and bottom.
  • Slippery When Wet. Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and the shower. Install grab bars next to bathtubs, showers, and toilets.
  • Exercise regularly. Ask your doctor about the best type of exercise for you.
  • Take Your Time. Being rushed or distracted increase your chance of falling.
  • Clear The Way. Keep stairs and walkways, indoors and out, free of clutter and other obstacles.
  • Throw Rugs. Can Throw You. Use only rugs with rubber, no skid backing.
  • Best Foot Forward. Wear sturdy, well-fitted low-heeled shoes with non-slip soles.

Information provided by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

900 Second Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
703.746.5200
Fax: 703.838.5093
TTY: 703.838.4896

Office Hours:
Monday - Friday
8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.