Tips from the Shelter Island F.D. on keeping your family safe

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | October is Fire Prevention Month.

With a population of 1.5 million people in Suffolk County, accidents happen, fire happens, to even those who think they’ve taken precautions. With October as Fire Prevention Month, it’s a perfect time to ask yourself: Am I prepared? Is my family prepared?

Here are just a few common fire hazards in the average home and what can be done about them. Preventing fires before they start should be your main objective.

Start with the basement. Have the heating system cleaned and checked regularly. Never store combustibles near the furnace. Flammable liquids, if any, should be stored in metal cabinets and outside the building, if possible. Never store gasoline inside the home.

Misuse of electricity is a major cause of fire. Always use the proper fuse. If it repeatedly blows out, have an electrician check the circuit.

Do not overload the circuit with octopus-type plugs. Check for frayed cords and replace them. Never have extension cords under rugs or through doorways. Use proper bulbs in lamps.

Your kitchen area is a fire hazard. Check that curtains, paper towels and other flammable materials are not hanging over the stove. If grease starts a fire in a pan, cover the pan to eliminate the oxygen. Do not put the pan in the sink. Baking soda or salt may be used to smother grease fires.

Careless smoking is another major fire hazard. Have large enough ashtrays available to hold cigarettes. Never smoke in bed. A careful check of furniture after parties or social gatherings for hot ashes or cigarettes may prevent a smoldering fire from starting. Never empty ashtrays into waste baskets before checking them for smoldering ashes. Dispose of rubbish regularly outside in covered containers.

About children and matches: Explain to children that matches are for adults and not for children. Make sure matches and lighters are well out of the reach of children.

Take time to read labels. Aerosol cans are under pressure. Read the label carefully — the can may contain flammable mixtures.

Enjoy the holiday season and stop fires before they start. On Halloween, check that children’s costumes are flameproof; don’t use lighted candles for jack-o’-lanterns.

When using live Christmas trees, set them in water and don’t keep them up too long. Use non-combustible decorations. Check tree lights for breaks in cords, plugs and connections. Never use candles on a tree. Keep electric window candles away from curtains. Put Christmas wrappings and trash in rubbish cans and get rid of them as quickly as possible.

Prevention is important but we must be realistic. Accidents do happen, so a good home fire plan is necessary.

Planning prevention

• Have a family conference. Plan escape routes from each room in your home, particularly the bedrooms.
• Are there two ways of escape from the room?
• Does the room have a door to close against smoke or fire? Family members should sleep with the door closed.
• Does the window open easily? Is it large enough to get through?
• Can the storm windows be opened easily from the inside?
• Is there a porch roof outside the room that can be climbed out on?
• Do you need any emergency equipment to insure a safe exit from your bedroom, such as a ladder or a rope?
• Plan now where the family will assemble after evacuating the home.
• Review your exit plan to be certain everyone remembers his or her emergency route. We urge all families to plan a home fire drill — the first three minutes of fire is critical.

In case of fire
• Keep calm; do not panic.
• If you smell smoke, arouse the family.
• Call the fire department, if possible.
• Close doors against smoke and heat. If the door is closed, test it by feeling the top of the door. If it is hot, do not open. • If the room is filled with smoke, keep down, close to the floor where you can breathe easier.
• Remember, a porch or attached garage roof can provide temporary safety.
• Never re-enter a burning building.
• Let firefighters know if everyone is out and safe.