FIRE PREVENTION WEEK: How to avoid potential hazards during most dangerous season

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — Home fires can occur at any time but are even more common during fall and winter according to the American Red Cross.

However, there are steps you can take to prevent fires from happening in your home.

“We respond to about an average of 6 home fires across the state,” said Ben Williamson, communications manager for the American Red Cross Palmetto Region.

The Palmetto Region of the American Red Cross serves a source of immediate relief when a fire occurs as well as helps families connect to resources after this traumatic event occurs.

 “They’re most common between the hours of 12 am and 6 am. What we’re doing at that time is sleeping. It’s very important that smoke alarms are in the homes,” said George Adams, fire marshal with Columbia-Richland Fire Department.

Smoke alarms can only save lives if they have working batteries and are properly functioning.

“Check them. Make sure you get them in every single bedroom of your home. Those save lives,” Williamson said. “They cut the risk of dying in a home fire in half. Please, please, please do that. It’s very simple. The second thing is to simply have a conversation and make a plan with your family.”

Fire marshal George Adams says that you should have two ways to get out of a room as well as a meeting place for everyone in your household. He also says it’s important to identify fire hazards in your house.

“Plugging too many cords into extension cords or plugging extension cords into other extension cords to get to the outlet. Things like that,” Adams said. “Putting combustible liquids and materials around your hot water heater where they can easily ignite.”

There are many hazards and fires can start from a variety of sources.

“There’s several causes. Cooking is a big factor,” Adams said. “Oftentimes, when people cook, they leave the kitchen unattended. That’s the number one cause of fires.”

Another common cause of fires in the colder months is heating units.

“Before you hit that switch from cold to hot, make sure it’s been cleaned and looked at, especially if you haven’t done it in a couple years,” Williamson said.

Fireplaces and space heaters are also common fire hazards during the fall and winter as are dry Christmas trees, frayed lights and candles. Having a fire extinguisher can help put out small fires.

 “We teach the acronym PASS,” Adams said. “Pull the pin, aim at the base of the fire, squeeze the handle and do it in a sweeping motion.”

However, Adams says the most important thing is responding the your smoke alarm and getting out of a burning building.

“If you’re uncomfortable using a fire extinguisher, let the professionals handle that,” the fire marshal said. “You don’t want to be on the other side of a fire using the fire extinguisher.”

If you do not have a working smoke alarm, you should reach out to the Red Cross or your local fire department.

If you use a generator or space heater, it is also a good idea to have a carbon monoxide detector as well.

Categories: Local News, Richland