Fire Prevention and Fire Safety is Everyone’s Responsibility.
“If You See Something; Say Something
If we intend to survive one of the most devastating events imaginable, we must begin right now to protect ourselves and families. And to go yet another step in the proactive direction, protect our neighbors and our community. With the advent of cold weather, preparations must begin immediately. Remember the words “if you see something, say something”, that applies to unsafe conditions that surround us and our neighbors every day. If you observe a crumbling chimney, report it, “say something”. Chimney’s should be free from the blockage of tree branches and should be capped-off with a spark arrester or chimney cap. Air flow across the top of the chimney is a must in order to create a Venturi effect [Giovanni B. Venturi (1746-1822)] to assist in drawing hot gases and products of combustion from the heat-producing devices to vent into the atmosphere. This also helps to prevent animals from infiltrating the flue, building nests and it is equally important to prevent the spread of products of combustion [sparks and hot gases] onto surrounding combustible roofs and vegetation. Chimneys should extend 2 feet higher than anything within ten feet.
Observe fire hydrants in your area for damage, accessibility and color coding (if they are color-coded). Light blue top (Class AA are the best water flow) Green top (Class A is next best), Orange top (Class B is third best) and Red top (Class C is last). For additional information reference NFPA 291. And when snow falls, clear these hydrants of snow so they are visible to firefighters and motorists (so they don’t park and block them). The news reports frequently state that “firefighters were hampered in their fire-fighting efforts due to a lack of water and or low water pressure”.
Domestic water heaters and heating systems, in some cases, are vented through the walls of buildings. These vents must be kept clear of bushes, flowers and of snow in order to vent properly. When these are blocked, CO becomes a deadly hazard to the occupants. Any building that utilizes fossil fuels as a heat source should have CO detectors properly installed and maintained.
Exterior “Stortz” wall connectors [Carl A. G. Stortz (1882)] and Siamese connectors for sprinkler and standpipe systems must be cleared of snow, ice and any vegetation to enable visibility. Check for proper markings and where they supply water internally, to the sections and sub-divisions.
If your community uses color/reflective address markers, check them for visibility and readable condition.
Cold weather adversely affects everyone, especially Emergency Responders; we can, however, better deal with these conditions by saying something if we see something that needs immediate attention for everyone’s safety.
Ed Knight is a Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator (CFEI/CFII) and a fire instructor; a retired municipal assistant fire marshal, forensic investigator having investigated several thousand fires and testified over 60 times throughout the United States and several foreign countries. He is Chairman of the Live Burn Facility, Pequea Lane, Lancaster, PA.