Monday, January 02, 2012


Tragedy illustrates importance of fire safety

The tragic house fire in Stamford on Christmas Day was a sobering reminder to us all of the fragility of life.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, 482,000 structure fires occurred in the United States in 2010, resulting in 3,120 deaths and more than 17,000 injuries. Here is essential fire safety advice we all should heed:

Formulate and practice a home fire escape plan that everyone, even the children, understands. Pull together everyone in your household and make a plan showing two ways out of each room, including windows. Don't forget to mark the location of each smoke detector. Determine a place to meet outside to make sure everyone in the family is accounted for. Have a practice fire drill at least twice yearly.

Have smoke detectors installed on every level of your house, including the basement. Test batteries by pushing the button on the alarm, ideally once a month. Change batteries twice a year, each fall and spring when we change the clocks for daylight savings time. A smoke detector is worth so much, possibly a loved one's life, yet is so inexpensive. More than 90 percent of fire deaths occur in residential dwellings between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. when occupants are asleep. Smoke detectors alert occupants when a fire is still small and there is still time to escape.

Take extra care when burning candles in the home. Never leave burning candles unattended. Make sure the flames are not near anything combustible, including curtains or lampshades.

Space heaters can be hazardous. Again, never leave unattended or place them near anything that could burn, including shoes or furniture.

Carbon monoxide detectors are potential life-saving devices. Install carbon monoxide detectors on all levels of your home, especially near sleeping areas, advises Fred Potter, Backus Hospital’s Coordinator of Emergency Medical Services.

• Norwich Deputy Fire Marshal Jake Manke advises every household to have a working fire extinguisher in a readily available and reachable location. Check the battery gauge and be familiar with how to use it. But he stresses the most important thing is to get everyone safely out of the house and call 911, allowing the professionals to fight the fire.

The National Fire Protection Association is the standard for accurate information in the fire safety field. Family fire safety plans and other vital information is offered at its website:

Let’s all work to protect our families as we look forward to a healthy and safe New Year.

Alice Facente is a registered nurse and clinical educator at the The William W. Backus Hospital Education Department. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. If you want to comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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