FIRE PREVENTION MONTH: Protect your family, install smoke detectors

<p style="text-align: left;">Fire chief Bob Hanmer

Fire chief Bob Hanmer

Fire chief Bob Hanmer

Fire chief Bob Hanmer

Smoke detectors are one of the most important devices residents should have in their homes, said Oberlin fire chief Bob Hanmer.

October is National Fire Prevention Month and fire departments across the country are holding demonstrations and talking with residents about how to protect their homes and families.

Hanmer said the Oberlin station has seen a decrease in fire calls in the last couple of decades but still warns residents they need to protect their homes from fire.

“We always recommend to change your smoke detectors twice a year,” he said. Residents should have multiple alarms throughout their homes.

“If your budget is limited we like to keep them in your living room and especially outside their sleeping area,” Hanmer said. “If they’re over 10 years old you should replace them.”

A working smoke detector gives people ample time to escape danger, he said.

Hanmer said a majority of house fires are heat related: “Most of our fires start in the kitchen.”

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, three of every five home fire deaths result from fires in structures without working smoke alarms. The risk of dying in a home fire is cut in half in homes with working smoke alarms.

Hanmer also wants residents to have escape plans and practice them with their families so they are prepared should a fire break out.

That includes having a designated meeting area outside: “Do not go back into the house,” Hanmer said.

He said the Oberlin school system does a great job evacuating its buildings within two minutes with 300 studentsResidents should aim for the same time or less.

According to a National Fire Protection Association survey, only one-third of Americans have both developed and practiced a home fire escape plan.

Two of the most common types of household accessories that start fires are candles and portable space heaters, Hanmer said.

“Space heaters give off a lot of heat and are usually stored by flammable products like newspapers,” he said.

On average there are 29 home candle fires reported per day, stated the NFPA. Nearly three in five candle fires start when flammable materials are too close to candles.

The winter season is approaching fast, which means people will start using their chimneys, furnaces, and heaters.

Heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires, fire deaths, and fire injuries, warns the NFPA.

Hanmer recommends that anyone who uses a chimney should have a professional check and clean it each year prior to using it.

Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.