Today’s Homes Burn Faster

A fire in a modern home is a “perfect storm,” according to safety consulting and certification company UL (Underwriters Laboratories). Larger homes, more open layouts, new construction materials and other factors mean fires burn more quickly, leaving less time for occupants to escape — and for firefighters to stop the flames. How much less time? About 30 years ago, you had about 17 minutes to get out of the house once it caught fire. Today? Just three or four minutes.

A lot goes into creating that “perfect storm,” experts say. Here are some key factors:

  • Building materials. Particle board and other man-made materials, which are lighter and cheaper than natural wood, often are used to construct homes today. This leads to larger homes at a lower cost, but they also burn more quickly than solid wood, concrete or masonry.
  • More space — and more stuff. Fires can spread quickly in homes that are largely open, with high ceilings, etc. And homes that are bigger typically have more things in them — which means there’s more fuel for the fire.
  • Newer stuff. The old days of couches, carpets, etc., made from all-natural materials are long gone. That’s great news for durability and price, but it’s not great for limiting fires. Though many modern furnishings are excellent at resisting smoldering (such as if a cigarette is dropped), once they actually catch fire, they burn very quickly.

What can you do? Well, unless you’re having a house built or doing an extensive remodel, you can’t really change the materials used to construct your home. However, there are a few things you should do immediately to help keep you and your family safe, no matter where you live:

  • Make sure your smoke detectors are in working order.
  • Create an escape plan for you and your family.
  • Place fire extinguishers on each level of your home, as well as in the garage.

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5 Fire Safety Tips For Your Home

Equipping your home with the right fire safety equipment can help you gain precious seconds in a fire emergency. Be sure your home includes the following equipment, that you (and your family) know how to use it.

What to Include in Your Home Fire Safety Kit

1. Smoke Alarms
The single most important piece of fire safety equipment you can have in your home is a smoke alarm. A properly working smoke alarm can cut your risk of dying in a fire by half.1 Be sure you have smoke alarms on every level of your house, especially outside rooms where family members sleep. Test and clean them with a vacuum every month, and replace the batteries twice a year. And install new smoke alarms every 10 years.

2. Automatic Fire Sprinkler System
It’s important to note that an automatic fire sprinkler system won’t necessarily extinguish every fire that starts in your home. But it will reduce the amount of harmful smoke and gases so you can get out of the house. Some sprinkler systems can also be connected to your alarm system, so it’ll call the fire department if a fire starts.

3. Fire Extinguisher
You should have at least one fire extinguisher in your home. Extinguishers with A-B-C ratings are effective against ignited cloth, wood, paper, rubber, and plastics (A), flammable liquids like gasoline, alcohol and oil-based paints (B), and energized electrical equipment (C).

What to do when using a fire extinguisher:

  • First call the fire department.
  • Use an extinguisher only on small fires with minimal smoke.
  • If you’re dealing with a liquid fire, use the extinguisher only if you can eliminate of the source of fuel. Otherwise, immediately get out of the house.
  • Remember “PASS”: Pull the pin. Aim low. Squeeze. Sweep.
  • If you can’t put out the fire within the eight seconds it takes to empty the extinguisher, take immediate steps to get out safely.

4. Fire Escape Ladders
If you have a two-story (or more) home, you need fire escape ladders in every upstairs bedroom. They come folded into permanent or portable boxes that you can store under a window or bed. During a fire, if all other exits are blocked, you can drop the ladder out of the window and climb down to safety. Fire escape ladders are either 15 feet (for second-story windows) or 25 feet long (third floor).

Pro Tip: Make sure your ladder has a stable standoff, which is the support arm system at the top that holds the ladder away from the side of the house to steadies it and make escape quicker for you.

5. Fireproof Safe
The most valuable of your possessions should be in a safety deposit box at the bank. But if there are certain things you want to protect and also keep close, you need a fireproof safe. Depending on what’s kept in there, you can get a safe that’s guaranteed not to get hotter than 125 degrees (DVDs, computer disks) or 350 degrees (papers). Most fireproof safes offer 30 minutes of protection.

Once you have all of the right fire safety equipment in place, don’t forget to create and practice your home fire escape plan. Having the right fire safety equipment can help reduce your family’s risk of injury and property damage due to a serious fire. Or at the very least, you’ll be warned and have time to get out.

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Equipment Upkeep

In the mold remediation and water damage restoration business, there’s many pieces of equipment that are vital to completing a job.  Mold Remediation will use equipment like Air Machines, (Scrubbers and Negative Air), HEPA vacuums, Fog machines etc.  While Water Damage Restoration will use equipment such as Turbo Fans, Axial Fans, Dehumidifiers and more.  So why is this important for a home owner to know?  Because without the proper upkeep of this equipment, your home or business could be subject to cross contamination, improper removal of mold, and structures that aren’t dried correctly.  Many companies new and old alike, will buy used equipment from large franchise outfits that have already used them for several thousand hours.  One location will purchase the equipment, and then sell it to a newer franchise and so on, before it’s finally dumped back into the market, where smaller companies purchase them for pennies on the dollar.  These machines have been used for several years and can log up to thirty thousand hours of use or more, and now are being brought to your home.  Is this always a bad thing?  Not necessarily.  But the chance that these pieces of equipment have been maintained properly throughout the years is very minimal.  Which brings us to another point.

Many companies even with newer equipment, do not maintain them properly.  It is completely fine for a home or business owner to inspect the equipment being used.  For air machines, new filters should be visible for each job.  Contractors who arrive to a job with dirty filters are already risking cross contamination by just introducing that machine into the home even before turning it on.  All equipment should be clean and free from dirt or soot, while fans and dehumidifiers should also be pushing out the appropriate amount of air.  When fans are nearing the end of their life cycle, they’ll tend to make a lot of noise, push out a minimal amount of air and drain your electric.  You can always get a hint of the caliber of contractor you’ve hired from the type of equipment being used and how well it’s maintained.  If they can’t maintain their own equipment, how could they do a good job in your home?

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The Risks of Hoarding

Many fire departments are experiencing serious fires, injuries, and deaths as the result of compulsive hoarding behavior. The excessive accumulation of materials in homes poses a significant threat to firefighters fighting fires and responding to other emergencies in these homes and to residents and neighbors. Often, the local fire department will be contacted to help deal with this serious issue. Since studies suggest that between three and five percent of the population are compulsive hoarders, fire departments must become familiar with this issue and how to effectively handle it.

Why is hoarding an issue for the fire service?

  • Hoarding can be a fire hazard. Many occupants die in fires in these homes. Often, blocked exits prevent escape from the home. In addition, many people who are hoarding are injured when they trip over things or when materials fall on them.
  • Responding firefighters can be put at risk due to obstructed exits, falling objects, and excessive fire loading that can lead to collapse. Hoarding makes fighting fires and searching for occupants far more difficult.
  • Those living adjacent to an occupied structure can be quickly affected when a fire occurs, due to excessive smoke and fire conditions.

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Protecting Basement Storage

Most homeowners utilize their basements for storage, but protecting them is something many don’t think about until a disaster occurs. A failed sump pump, for instance, can spell disaster if you have cardboard boxes full of belongings piled on the floor. That’s why, if you have basement storage, it can’t hurt to take steps when it’s dry to help protect your items from potential water damage.

Preserve Your Memories
The Library of Congress advises against storing photographs in the basement, which may be prone to leaks or extreme temperatures. The U.S. National Archives and Record Administration also suggests avoiding the basement, unless it has a dehumidifier; otherwise, your photos may be exposed to moisture that could case them to get stuck together. But if your photos end up down there, you’ll likely want to preserve your memories the best you can. The National Archives suggests storing photographs in plastic enclosures made from uncoated pure polyethylene, polypropylene or polyester to preserve them.

Store Important Files in a Safe
If you’ve ever waited in line for hours to receive a new Social Security card or if you travel frequently, then you know how important it is to keep birth certificates, savings bonds, passports and other critical documents in one place that is easy for you to access. If you plan to keep these documents in the basement, you also need them to stay dry. The Federal Emergency Management Agency suggests storing important documents in waterproof containers in a high location, or in a waterproof or fireproof safe.

Don’t Forget Your Digital Files
You’ve finally created digital files of your favorite photos and saved your almost-finished novel on a flash drive. Where should you store these digital files? Consider stashing your files in a safe. Before purchasing a safe, think about what you want to preserve. As noted by Consumer Reports, some safes can reach interior temperatures of 350 degrees Fahrenheit; depending on the format of your digital files, such as CDs used to store family photos, you may want to consider selecting a safe that better protects its contents from high temperatures.

Save Your Stamps
A little water in your basement could potentially wipe out a lifelong hobby if, for instance, your stamp collection is not properly stored. If you must store such valuables in your basement, the Smithsonian National Postal Museum advises placing your items on a high shelf. The museum cautions, though, against using a shelf located along a concrete wall or or near an exterior door, as heat, humidity and even dryness may put your collection at risk.

Care for Seasonal Decor
From special holiday decor that has been in your family for generations to the newest addition to your collection of Halloween inflatables, storing seasonal items in your basement can be a cumbersome task. When it’s time to take down those holiday decorations, the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment at the University of Kentucky (UKAg) recommends laundering any washable items, such as tablecloths, before returning them to storage. Ornaments and other decor should be cleaned thoroughly at the end of the season, too. And, the organization adds, keeping those boxes off the ground can help prevent moisture from entering them.

Perform Routine Maintenance
Some regular maintenance may help prevent water from trickling into the basement. According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, homeowners should inspect sump pumps annually to ensure the pump’s components are not jammed or tangled. Don’t forget the exterior of your house, too. Seattle Public Utilities suggests cleaning gutters and drainage downspouts about twice per year to keep water flowing off and away from your home. While you’re at it, the agency recommends directing downspouts so that water flows away from your foundation; don’t direct the flow to your neighbors’ homes, either.

Basements can come in handy when it comes to storing items you don’t need to access regularly, but they may also be sources of dampness or subject to extreme temperatures. By making the effort to store your various belongings appropriately, you can help ensure that they are in the same condition you left them in the next time you need them.

Washer & Dryer Maintenance

Washers and dryers were involved in one out of every 22 home structure fires reported to U.S. fire departments between 2006 and 2010. Incidents of clothes dryer fires are higher in the fall and winter months and peak in January, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The leading cause of clothes dryer fires is a failure to clean the dryer of dust, fiber and lint. Lint is highly combustible and can lead to reduced airflow, posing a fire hazard in clothes dryers.Here are several safety tips for properly maintaining your washer and dryer:

Ensure proper installation
Be sure to have your washer and dryer installed and serviced by a professional. Check your washer and dryer manuals to ensure that your electrical outlet is appropriate for your plugs. If you have a gas dryer, have it inspected by a professional to make sure the gas line and connection are working properly and don’t have leaks.

Maintain the lint filter
Always clean the lint filter before drying each load of laundry. If you are drying a new item that creates a lot of lint, such as a bath towel or bath mat, consider drying it for half a cycle and then pause to clean out the lint filter before continuing to dry the item. Regularly check the dryer’s drum for lint accumulation.

Inspect the vent
The dryer vent is located outside of your house. It’s a good idea to periodically check to make sure air is coming out of the vent while clothes are drying. If no air is coming out of the vent, turn off the dryer and inspect the vent for blockage. Accumulated lint, a bird’s nest or even small animals can block vents.

Check the exhaust duct
Make sure the duct that runs from the back of your dryer to your wall and outside to your dryer vent isn’t clogged with lint or debris. If there is a blockage, you may have to remove the duct to clean it out. Consult with a professional before making any changes to your dryer’s exhaust duct.

Basic washer and dryer safety tips
Follow these basic safety tips when using your washer and dryer.

  • Don’t overload.
  • Read and follow the manufacturer’s operating instructions.
  • Don’t run the washer or dryer when you aren’t home or when you are sleeping.
  • Keep the entire area clean and free of clutter, boxes and other materials.
  • Don’t store items on the top of the washer and dryer.
  • Consult the operating instructions prior to washing or drying an item that has been soiled with chemicals such as gasoline, cooking oil or paint.

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