POSTED: Wednesday, December 15, 2010 - 5:11pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, December 15, 2010 - 8:03pm
Zero fire-related deaths: that's the goal the El Paso Fire Department has set forth with a set of new initiative. Fire Chief Otto Drozd held a news conference this morning at El Paso Fire Department headquarters in response to the number of deaths we've seen.
Eleven people have died this year in fire-related deaths. One of the most recent ones was a fire at a home in Central El Paso that claimed the life of a former boxer less than two weeks ago. In order to reduce the number of fire-related deaths, Chief Drozd says the fire department will be partnering with a number of organizations to educate the community on fire safety.
"The one common thread among all the 11 deaths within El Paso is they were all preventable. All of them could have been prevented with the proper smoke detectors and a proper escape plan."
The following initiatives will be implemented under the direction of Chief Drozd by the beginning of 2011:
Partnering with NFPA: El Paso has also been selected by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) as a collaborative partner, under their Urban Fire Safety Task Force program, in identifying the best ways to reach El Paso residents with the fire safety message and provide public education materials, and design programs tailored for El Paso residents.
Neighborhood Association Partnership Program: Recognizing that when dealing with disasters, we can accomplish more together as a group than as individuals, the El Paso Fire Department will build a collaborative partnership between the department and the local neighborhood associations. The goal is to fully integrate the El Paso Fire Department into the community through outreach efforts, and establish a line of communication between the neighborhood associations and their neighborhood responders.
Home Safety Survey Program: Each year, the El Paso Fire Department will conduct Home Safety Surveys throughout the City. This program is beneficial because it allows firefighters the opportunity to meet citizens in their neighborhood and walk through residences giving free home safety surveys. During these visits, firefighters check smoke detectors to make sure they are working properly and install new batteries or detectors if needed. Firefighters also walk through the home with the resident trying to identify any fire hazards that may exist.
Smoke Detector Program: This program is made possible through donations by local businesses. The El Paso Fire Department receives donated smoke detectors and installs them free of charge for citizens in need. The El Paso Fire Department's Community Risk Reduction Division coordinates with Suppression units who will come to citizen's home and install the smoke detector in the residence. Batteries will also be replaced in the smoke detectors of elderly or physically challenged persons who cannot change the batteries themselves.
For more information on either the home survey, or smoke detector program, call the EPFD's Community Risk Reduction Division at (915) 771-1090.
And be sure to follow these fire safety tips for you home:
· Have a working smoke alarm on each level of your home and outside bedrooms.
· Test smoke alarms monthly and change batteries at least once every year.
· Consider buying a lithium battery powered smoke alarm, which may last up to ten years with no battery change.
· Install smoke alarms away from air vents.
· Install smoke alarms on the ceiling or walls, at least 4 inches from corners.
· When affixed to walls, smoke alarms should be between 4 and 12 inches from the ceiling.
· Never disable or remove smoke alarm batteries.
· Develop a fire escape plan with your household and practice often.
· Know two ways to exit from every room in your home.
· Make sure safety bars on windows can be opened from inside your home.
· Crawl low, under smoke.
· Feel closed doors. If hot, use another exit.
· Identify a place to meet household members outside. Never re-enter a burning building.
· Escape first and then call for emergency assistance.
Fire Safety Walk Through
· Keep clothes, blankets, curtains and other combustibles at least three feet from space heaters.
· Place space heaters where they will not tip over easily.
· Have chimneys cleaned and inspected annually by a professional.
· Clear the area around the hearth of debris, flammable and decorative materials.
· Always use a metal mesh screen with fireplaces and leave glass doors open while burning a fire.
· Keep clothes, towels and other combustibles away from stove burners.
· Never leave cooking unattended.
· Be sure your stove and small appliances are off before going to bed.
· Check for frayed wires and do not run cords under rugs or furniture.
· Never overload electrical sockets.
· Keep lighters and matches out of the reach of children.
· Never leave cigarettes unattended.
· Never smoke in bed.
Americans and cause over $990 million in damage. There are simple life-saving steps you can take to ensure a safe and happy holiday. By following some of the outlined precautionary tips, individuals can greatly reduce their chances of becoming a holiday fire casualty.
Preventing Christmas tree Fires
Selecting a Tree for the Holiday
Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needle should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.
Caring for Your Tree
Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
Disposing of Your Tree
Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood burning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community pick-up service.
Maintain Your Holiday Lights
Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
Do Not Overload Electrical Outlets
Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires - they should not be warm to the touch.
Use Only Nonflammable Decorations
All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents.
Never Put Wrapping Paper in a Fireplace
It can result in a very large fire, throwing off dangerous sparks and embers and may result in a chimney fire.
Artificial Christmas Trees
If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.
Avoid Using Lit Candles
If you do use them, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Never leave the house with candles burning.
Never Put Lit Candles on a Tree
Do not go near a Christmas tree with an open flame - candles, lighters or matches.
Finally, as in every season, have working smoke alarms installed on every level of your home, test them monthly and keep them clean and equipped with fresh batteries at all times. Know when and how to call for help. And remember to practice your home escape plan.
For more information about Fire Prevention and fire safety, contact the El Pas Fire Department at (915) 771-1090.