Archive for Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Holiday, winter safety is urged

December 12, 2007

Area fire chiefs are urging residents to use caution this winter when operating electrical and wood-burning appliances.

There are safety measures to keep in mind for the holiday season - even when putting up Christmas lights.

"Look where you're plugging them in," said Carl Chalfant, McLouth fire chief and city superintendent. "Each Christmas appliance has little tags on them that say how many amps that specific appliance is going to pull. You should never exceed 80 percent of what your outlet's rated."

If you're unaware of the rating of your outlet, all fuse boxes have the rating listed on them, he said.

Chalfant and Tonganoxie Fire Chief Dave Bennett said the most important safety device for the winter season was a working smoke detector. The winter is the best time to change batteries on the detectors, according to the fire chiefs.

A separate carbon monoxide detector would also preserve residents' safety. They are available at most hardware stores.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that is a byproduct of burning fossil fuels. It's a toxic gas that could be fatal.

"Carbon monoxide keeps the body from transferring oxygen to the cells," Bennett explained. "You need to have a working carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home. If it does go off for some reason, call the fire department."

After placing the call, Bennett said, exit the home immediately. Residents shouldn't leave any open doors to the outside or open windows. It's easier for the fire department to find the source of the carbon monoxide if it's trapped.

There have been 12 calls placed to the Tonganoxie Fire Department in 2007 concerning carbon monoxide incidents, according to Tonganoxie Fire Capt. John Callaghan. Some were false alarms, but more than half were actual incidents that involved carbon monoxide.

Bennett also suggested that residents with wood-burning fireplaces clean the flues. He said residents should have an inspector out at least once a year to clean the flue.

Firefighters with the Tonganoxie Fire Department have responded to one flue fire and two house fires attributed to flues thus far in 2007, according to Callaghan. Of the three incidents, none occurred within the city limits of Tonganoxie.

Chalfant said the McLouth Fire Department has already responded to three flue fires this winter.

In any case of a potential emergency, Bennett and Chalfant said not to be embarrassed to call the fire department.

"There are many people who think we still charge a fee," Bennett said. "We don't charge a fee to come out. We stress that if there's an emergency, don't be afraid to call."

For residents who don't have cell phones, Chalfant suggested investing in a hardwired phone line to the house.

"If the electricity goes out, the (house phone) would be no good," Chalfant said. "If you don't have electricity and need to get a hold of 9-1-1, you'll need that emergency line."

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