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Fire Prevention Month a good time to take inventory

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has proclaimed October as Fire Prevention Month — an effort to help spread the message of fire safety, protect Michigan residents and save lives.

Fatal fire data collected by MI Prevention — a statewide community risk reduction effort led by the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs in collaboration with the State Fire Marshal and Michigan’s fire safety organizations — shows most of Michigan’s fire deaths happen overnight, with 50% of fire deaths resulting from fires that started in the living room, 17% of fires that started in the kitchen and 16% of fires that started in bedrooms.

That’s why preparation is so key: Families need to know what to do if a fire breaks out in their home.

An important first step is installation of fire alarms.

And it’s imperative to check the smoke alarms of elderly family members to help identify fire hazards in their home and correct them. It is also important to be cautious while smoking, as 51% of the fire deaths in Michigan since 2017 involved careless smoking.

In order to make every home more fire-safe, MI Prevention offers the following tips:

— Install smoke alarms on every level of the home and inside every sleeping area.

— Check the alarm by pushing the test button every month.

— Never smoke in bed; keep lighters and cigarettes away from children.

— Never leave lit candles unattended; place them in sturdy holders on uncluttered surfaces, keeping them at least 1 foot away from anything that can burn, including curtains, bedding, furniture, and carpeting.

— Have fireplaces, chimneys, wood stoves, and coal stoves inspected annually by a professional — and cleaned if necessary.

— Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended.

— Use caution when using space heaters; never leave them unattended, keep them at least three feet away from anything that can burn, and place them on a hard-nonflammable surface, like a ceramic tile floor.

— Replace frayed extension cords; do not overload extension cords.

— Never overload electrical outlets; plug only one heat-producing appliance into an outlet at a time.

— Major appliances should not be plugged in using extension cords or plug strips; plug appliances and space heaters directly into the wall electrical outlet.

— Keep clothes and other items 3 feet away from gas water heaters.

— Clean the dryer lint screen after each load — lint is extremely flammable.

— Have fire extinguishers in the home and know how to use them.

— Make sure all doors and windows leading outside open easily and are not blocked by furniture or clutter.

— Sleep with your bedroom door closed with a smoke alarm in your bedroom; this can save lives by reducing toxic smoke levels and slowing down the spread of fire and smoke into bedrooms.

— If you need to escape out a window, close the door between you and the fire before opening the window to escape as a closed door slows down the spread of fire and smoke as you escape.

LARA and its Bureau of Fire Services also will join the National Fire Protection Association in recognizing Fire Prevention Week through Sunday.

Being aware and being prepared are two important steps in avoiding a tragic home fire. We implore families to take the time to make sure each member knows what to do if a fire breaks out in the home.

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