Firefighters will mark prevention week by sprinkling county with safety tips They aim to keep low death record

October 05, 1992|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Staff Writer

Local firefighters have scheduled a series of open houses at fire stations and will be preaching safety tips this week as they highlight National Fire Prevention Week, which ends Sunday.

Firefighters will demonstrate how to use fire extinguishers, how to use and maintain smoke detectors, and will offer safety tips for children, said Deputy Chief Edgar G. Shilling, of the county's bureau of fire prevention. People think "it happens to the guy down the street, but not to me," he said.

During the first eight months of this year, 54 people have died in fires statewide, according to the Office of the State Fire Marshal. During the same period in 1990, 57 Marylanders died. Maryland ranks 24th in fire deaths nationally.

There have been no fire deaths in Howard County since Nov. 1989.

"We have a pretty good record and want to keep it," Chief Shilling said.

"The biggest mistake is not keeping a smoke detector . . . and being careless," said Charles J. Hastings, a member of the Maryland State Firemen's Association.

Careless smoking accounted for 26 deaths in Maryland in 1991, Mr. Hastings said. Smoke inhalation was the second leading cause of fire deaths with 21 in 1991. Deputy Chief State Fire Marshal Bob Thomas said smoke detectors "double the chances of surviving the fire."

Since the mid-1970s when Maryland's smoke detector law went into effect, the number of fire deaths has declined, Mr. Thomas said. At one time, there were 160 to 170 fire deaths a year.

Mr. Thomas said Howard County's generally high incomes, smaller population and the presence of operating smoke detectors and residential sprinklers in newer homes may explain the low fire death rate here.

Here are some safety tips:

* Have a professional check your chimney for creosote build-up and cracked mortar.

* Have your heating system checked and cleaned.

* Follow manufacturer's instructions for installing a wood stove and chimney unless superseded by state or local jurisdictions.

* Follow all instructions for installing and maintaining portable heaters -- gas, electric or kerosene.

* Use only low sulfur kerosene in your kerosene heater and remember to ventilate properly. Make sure they're legal in your area.

* Keep combustibles away from heaters.

* Store gasoline-powered yard and garden equipment with empty fuel tanks.

* Make sure all occupants know how to call 911 in an emergency.

* Develop an escape plan in case of a fire.

* Inspect your home for potential fire hazards.

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