Ready U: Fire safety, prevention outlined at Ready U eventWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
In recognition of Fire Prevention Week, a group of citizens gathered Oct. 12 at the Maumee Fire Station to hear Fire Prevention Chief Brandon Loboschefski outline ways to reduce the risk of a home fire.
The free tutorial was a part of Ready U, a series put on by the Red Cross of Greater Toledo and the Lucas County Emergency Management Agency meant to coach area residents on how to respond to emergencies and disasters like fires.
October was designated Fire Safety Month because it is the month the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 killed more than 250 people and left 100,000 homeless as well as the month the Peshtigo Fire in Wisconsin killed more than 1,000 people that same year, Loboschefski said.
Loboschefski’s presentation on how to prevent such tragedies was broken into three parts: understanding fire hazards; install, inspect and protect smoke detectors; and plan and practice an escape route.
Cooking fires are one of the leading causes of home fires, Loboschefski said.
“It happens to everyone, whether it’s a big one or a small one,” he said.
To stop a cooking fire that starts in a pot, Loboschefski recommended sliding the lid or a cookie sheet over the fire and turning the burner off. Baking soda can also be used in a pinch. While many might try to douse the flames with water, water and grease do not mix, he said.
Loboschefski also advised keeping heating appliances, like space heaters or dryers, at least three feet from clutter.
He stressed many people make the mistake of overloading extension cords, which are meant to be used only temporarily.
Smoke detectors — which were given to attendees at the presentation — also cut back on fire deaths, Loboschefski said.
In 1975, about 10 percent of people used detectors, compared to 95 percent in 2000. Researchers have found the number of fire deaths has fallen by half during that period.
Attendee Teresa Kowalewski said she came to learn about improvements that have been made for smoke detectors.
“There have been updates so I’m glad I came,” she said.
Smoke detectors now come in a few varieties, two of which Loboschefski highlighted. Ionization sensors detect “faster, wispy smoke” while photoelectric detectors go off for “thick, black, smoldering” smoke, Loboschefski said.
Smoke detectors need to be properly used to be effective, Loboschefski said. Detectors should be installed in every bedroom and every floor, including basements and attached garages.
Smoke detectors in children’s rooms are especially crucial.
“They’re finding in studies that kids don’t wake up to that noise,” Loboschefski said, adding he tested his own son, who “didn’t budge.”
Smoke detectors should ideally be placed at the center of the ceiling and, if the ceiling is vaulted, 3 feet from the peak. Batteries should be checked on a routine basis and homeowners should press the test button as well.
Cleaning cobwebs and dust will also help the alarm work better, although it will still need to be replaced every 10 years, Loboschefski said.
The final part of the presentation was discussing an escape plan.
Children should be taught to “get low and go under that smoke,” Loboschefski said.
Families should also establish a meeting place so no one goes back in to check for someone who is already outside.
If someone is trapped, he or she should close the door between themselves and the fire, try to cover the cracks so smoke doesn’t come through and then stand by a window and call for help, Loboschefski said.
Loboschefski also touched on the importance of carbon monoxide detectors as well as the dangers of arson.
Carbon monoxide can cause flu-like symptoms.
“If you’re all (whole household) feeling it, that’s a red flag,” he said.
In the case of a leak, residents should go outside and call the fire department.
To prevent arson, Loboschefski said to keep an eye out for suspicious behavior and to report anything strange to police.
The next Ready U event, with a topic of winter weather safety, is set for 7 p.m. Nov. 14 at the Main Library, 325 N. Michigan St., in Toledo.
Toledo Free Press is a media sponsor of Ready U.
To learn more, visit the website www.ready-u.com.