Thursday, June 11, 2009

Don't leave me

I learned something today.

I recently took a class at the state Fire Academy, certifying me as a Fire and Life Safety Educator. This is a subject very near and dear to my heart, for a variety of reasons.

I am working on organizing a class in the Fall for middle school aged kids, and will undoubtedly write about that here off and on. As part of my preparation for that class, I have been researching a variety of fire safety issues, including what is taught to what ages- and what is not.

One of the things that is fascinating about fire safety is that even people who know better, often don't act on what they know. For example, one might think that firefighters are the most safe people, as far as making sure there are not hazards in their house, that they have enough detection devices, and that they practice what they preach.

Not necessarily so.

At our house, we are pretty paranoid about it, having had a serious fire. We have more smoke detectors than you can shake a stick at, of various types. We have Carbon Monoxide detectors. We have escape plans and fire drills, and talk about it all incessantly.

Even so.
There are a variety of things we could do to make our house safer, that we somehow don't manage to get done.
And if WE don't, as paranoid as we are, I can only imagine what other people do- and don't do.

I read some statistics yesterday that said that according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA):

Fire is the third leading cause of accidental deaths. Residential occupancies account for most fire fatalities and most of these deaths occur at night during the sleeping hours. 1.5 million Americans are injured by fire each year. It is estimated that each household will experience three (usually unreported) fires per decade and two fires serious enough to report to a fire department per lifetime.

This means that most people, at some point in their lives, will have a fire.

The most common cause of home fires is unattended cooking. Food left on the stove while the person leaves the room to do something else.

I've been guilty of this. If the heat is turned down low, I know the food won't burn, and there isn't anything near the burner that might catch fire, then what's the danger?


This evening, I was cooking pasta. Boiling water, basically. What's dangerous about that?

When I turned the burner on, it lit as usual. A few seconds later, for some unknown reason, the fire went out- but the gas was still on!! If I had left the room, I would not have known this happened. And if the gas had built up, and found an ignition source...

Have any of you ever seen a building that has had a gas explosion? Probably some of the folks reading this have. Hopefully, most of you have not, and never will. Let's just say that being inside that building would be a most unpleasant experience.

I'm cured, that's for sure. I will NEVER leave the room with the stove burners on again. I strongly encourage you to do likewise.