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Thursday, October 16, 2014

fire safety - Scott Holst

Thank you to Scott Holst for sharing his advice for fire prevention, as part of a fire safety series on the blog this month. Such specific and really helpful information about talking with our children about fire safety. I learned a lot reading this and hope you do, too!

1. How long have you been working in the fire prevention support field? Where do you work?
I have been in the fire related filed since joining Winslow Fire in 1982. I went into this line of work full-time starting in Winslow in 1986. Left and started working for Waterville Fire in 1994. Been a total of 32 years in this line of work.

2. What are some of the most important things you think all home-owners need to consider when it comes to fire prevention?

All home owners should really think about any form of fire prevention for their home. 

Anything that runs on electricity or creates heat should always be in great working order. Never use extension cords to run anything in the home. Surge protectors with fuses are to be used in place of extension cords. Always have a good working smoke and CO detector. Never overload any outlets in the home. Outlets have two plug ins and that is all that is the device should be used for. No multiple adapters shall be used in outlets to plug more than two items in.  

3. What is something you think all parents of young children need to talk to their kids about when it comes to fire safety?
The reason for a smoke detector, a plan to exit a home in case of an emergency and how to call 911 and what it should only be used for.

4. How should parents talk to their children about fire safety or what to do in case of an emergency (where to meet up, what to do when fire alarms go off, etc.)? At what age do you think kids should be talked to about this?
Talking to kids at the earliest age, around 3 years old is a good start. It is amazing what they will retain even though you do not think they will. Running through on what to do when the smoke detector goes off and how to safely get outside in case of an emergency is a big step in survival. Crawling low and not running is a topic we stress. If they are unable to get out, they need to get to a window and wait for help. Do not attempt to climb or jump out alone.

5. Any suggestions for those kids who sleep through anything, including loud fire alarms? 
People who sleep through loud fire alarms are a problem. We just need to realize this at the earliest time so we can prepare ourselves to handle the emergency situation if it ever arises. Detectors with bright strobes are one solution, but even that won't solve the whole problem. 

6. Any suggestions on helping kids realize that smoke alarms are not scary, that they are there to help us and to get out of the house?

Teaching kids the loud noise a fire alarm makes is for a special reason and not to be afraid of it. It is there to help us. Practicing using the alarms in many planned drills will help the kids get used to the sound and why it does what it does. The more they seen and hear it, the less likely they will be afraid of it. 

7. What type of maintenance can families do in their homes to prevent fires? 
There are maintenance issues home owners can do to prevention fire or medical emergencies in their home. Every year furnaces, chimneys, pellet stove, and wood stoves should be cleaned. Never store a huge pile of highly combustible material, like boxes upon boxes of stuff all in one area. Never ever store any item that runs on highly flammable fluids. No lawn mowers, grills, weed eaters, etc. in the basement. If these items are store in an attached garage, the fuel needs to be emptied from them. Any ashes from a wood, pellet or fireplaces shall be placed in a metal container and placed outside away from anything combustible. Ashes should also be watered down and mixed so the water makes it to the bottom. Watch out for any chemicals that react and burn when placed together. Know you chemicals.

8. What are your recommendations about using washing machines and dryers (on during the night while you're sleeping? clean the vent how often? leave it running while you leave the house or not? why?)

Washers and dryers are to be used when someone is around. Never leave, even for a short time, any of these items. 

The dryer vent should be cleaned and that will depend of the length of the vent hose. The longer the run, the more it needs to be cleaned out. Lint builds up and will catch fire very easily. All vent and lint traps should be cleaned before the appliance is started up. Once you see a lot of lint being built up around the wash area, that time is too late.   

9. Any recommendations about other appliances in the house - unplug toasters? only run dishwasher when someone is home? What about crockpots? etc.
Unplugging appliances is not a bad habit to get into. Toaster, toaster oven, can openers, and coffee pots are good items to always unplug. 

Crockpots are designed to be placed on low to slow cook, so leaving them unattended for a few hours is not bad, but it also creates heat and anything that creates heat can easily start a fire if left unattended for a long period of time. Old crockpots should never be left unattended. Time breaks down many items and things do start to fail more quickly. 

10. What do you find is one of the more common causes to house fires? 
The most common causes for house fire are the smokers, but over loaded outlets and extension cords uses are the next biggest problems. People who try and use a wood burning appliance, like wood and pellet stoves for the first time is a close third. 

11. What do you recommend for fire safety boxes, safes, etc. for families to keep important items? Any special brands or ideas on this?
A fire safety box for important items is a good idea, but you need to check out what you are buying, because not all brands really protect your valuables. A brand that is UL listed should be good.

12. For those who go through a fire situation, what do you think are some of the best things others can do to support them during that difficult time?

Anyone that has gone through a fire should always needs the support of getting clothing, housing and moral support. Losing everything you gathered for so many years, really takes a toll on a person and family. 

13. What are some things you teach young children about fire safety? Are there certain things you say, books parents could read, etc. that help them learn about preventing fires or what to do during fires? 

Teaching kids about fire prevention is a daily job. Talking, reading, watching movies or just visiting the local fire house can really teach a child a lot about fires. 

There really isn't any books one book that is a guide to teaching fire safety. It's when ever a parent want to take the time to sit and teach. If you are watching a movie and something happens that involves fire, talk with you child about it. If they are reading a book and they have a question, it's a good time to talk. We teach fire prevention in the schools every October, but we should be doing year round ourselves. 

14. Anything else you want to add? 
Anyone having a problem with a child who starts or seems very interested in how fire works, we do have programs for these kids. A call to the station to set up a time is more than welcome. 

Like I said, fire safety is taught every day. Always be alert and careful. It is a full-time job.

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