Fire trucks and dalmatians, fire drills and fire safety lessons…it must be Fire Prevention Week. The fire alarm buzzer is one of those sounds that may cause some kids to jump out of their seats, but if everything goes as practiced, the students will move in an orderly fashion to their designated area outside away from the building. Lessons during this week may include the “stop, drop and roll, keep it low” fire safety technique to teach children how to extinguish a fire on clothes or hair. A few tips here on how to prevent fires from smoking materials such as cigarettes, pipes and cigars, could help protect those children when they are at home.
Fire Prevention Week actually commemorates the Great Chicago Fire of October 8-9, 1871. More than 250 people were killed in the two day fire, and another 100,000 were left homeless. The blaze engulfed more than 17,400 structures and consumed over 2,000 acres. Legend has it that a cow belonging to Mrs. Catherine O’Leary kicked over a lamp which started the barn on fire and quickly spread to other wooden structures. New theories point to other possible causes, such as a couple of neighborhood boys sneaking cigarettes.
House fires caused by cigarettes and other smoking materials kill almost 1,000 smokers and non-smokers every year. In fact, one in four people killed in those fires is not the smoker; children of the smoker account for more than one third, and friends or neighbors count for 25% of the other victims. A dropped match or a match thrown away before it has cooled, an unattended ashtray, a spark from a piece of ash, or falling asleep with a lighted cigarette in your hand are all ways a house fire can begin. It only takes a few moments to make sure you don’t cause a fire with your cigarette, pipe or cigar.
First, if you are going to smoke, take it outside. Keep a can of sand near your smoking spot and extinguish all materials into the sand. Flicking your cigarette carelessly outside on the deck or onto the lawn could ignite the deck or dry debris around the house. Plus smoking outside will have the added benefit of making the inside of your house smell better; your family and pets will appreciate living in a smokefree home.
If you must smoke in the house, use big, deep ashtrays to keep the smoking material in one place, without the chance of it falling out of the ashtray or the ashtray tipping over. Place the ashtrays on a sturdy table, not on the sofa or chair arm as the ashtray could tip and furniture, carpets or drapes can catch fire fast. Don’t let the cigarette, pipe or cigar burn itself out; stub it out yourself. Empty ashtrays often as the cigarette butts sitting in the ashtray could catch fire from a lighted cigarette. Soaking the butts in water and rinsing out the ashtray will guarantee the ash is cold and the butts are out. Check your smoking area for any butts that may have landed on the cushions or dropped on the floor.
Keep your smoking materials out of the bedroom, and never smoke in bed. If you or a member of your family use oxygen, keep smoking materials away from that area. Oxygen can be explosive and cause fires to burn hotter and faster. And finally, always make sure your house has working fire alarms. A good rule of thumb is to replace the batteries twice a year, when you move your clock forward and back for daylight savings time.
Quitting smoking is the best way to prevent an accidental house fire from cigarettes, pipes and cigars. But if you must smoke, following these general guidelines will help protect you and your family.
For more Smoking & Home Fire safety tips, check out the U.S. Fire Administration FEMA site.
To teach your children fire safety, watch Wilshire, the fire dog, teach children how to “Stop, Drop and Roll.”