Richard’s Almanac: Fire marshall offers safety tips

Fire Marshall Mike Johnson addressed the seniors at the Senior Center last Wednesday with helpful facts for “Fire Prevention Week.” The Silver Circle had just finished lunch in the parking lot when he arrived.

All activities are still held outside.

He had his puppet “Firefighter Frank” under his arm complete with face mask as he stressed the importance of having house numbers installed. He said that Frank is popular with the younger kids at school.

The house numbers should be visible from the road where firefighters and ambulance personnel can see them.

“House numbering is a major problem for ambulance drivers because a few minutes can mean the difference between life and death,”  he said, adding that all Islanders have to do is ask and the fire department will install numbers at their homes. 

Mike said that he had taken a drive recently and noticed very few numbers by houses.

“This is a big problem that must be fixed for everyone’s safety,” he added.

He went on to explain most home fires start in the kitchen.

“And that’s because some people leave food cooking and unattended,” he said, noting that he means on top of the stove and not the oven. He said that seniors and children seem to be the most vulnerable because of their robes and loose clothing getting near a flame or electric cook top.

“Stop. Drop. Roll.”  These are the three words to remember if one happens to catch fire. It is critical to remove the oxygen which is keeping the fire alive. Smothering the fire will put it out, he added.

When one rolls on the floor or ground, the flames are getting smothered. The same thing happens when grease in a pan catches fire. Do not throw water on it. Put a towel over it to keep out oxygen and smother it, it was learned.

Another kitchen hazard that can cause serious burns is boiling water.

“It has the ability to scald the skin and can lead to infection,” Mike said.  

He spoke about the need for smoke alarms and the need to change batteries twice a year.

“This makes sure that they are at their peak,” the marshall said adding that even the hard-wired ones need battery backup.

It was also explained that carbon monoxide detectors are extremely important and that the department will be providing them soon. The carbon monoxide removes oxygen from the body and makes one go to sleep. And it’s a sleep that goes on forever. It can happen fast.

Carbon monoxide comes from combustion. Don’t make a fire inside unless it’s in a fireplace or wood stove. Fires must be vented. That’s why people have succumbed when they mistakenly use charcoal grills in the house or use an electric generator indoors. 

“And when you are using electric space heaters make sure that they are at least 3 feet away from combustible surfaces,” Mike noted.

He told us that we should all remember the three “P”s.  These are prevention, planning and practice.  They will help us avoid fires in our homes.

We should always be up to date on all fire prevention techniques. We should spend time planning how to deal with a fire if it occurs. And we should practice at home with fire drills.