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Simple steps can help avoid fire tragedies


Ryan Poe



With chilly temperatures expected over the next week, Columbus officials are once again stressing the need of winter safety. 


"It''s very important to practice winter safety," said Columbus Fire & Rescue Safety Education Coordinator Carole Summerall, who is currently touring the city as part of fire prevention month. 


"When it starts turning hot, cold, hot, cold, people forget to keep their heaters clear," she continued. 


Heating, which should be kept at least three feet away from combustibles, is the second most common cause of residential fires, just behind cooking, she said. 


As cooks start churning out the Halloween baked goodies, the temperature is supposed to drop dramatically Friday, which will have a high of 65, according to 


And people need to remain especially vigilant when the weather gets cold, she added. 


The recommendations of Summerall and other officials comes in the wake of one of the state''s deadliest apartment fires, which killed nine people in Starkville in January. 


The fire was a tragedy that perhaps could have been prevented if they had an escape route planned, she said. 


"Make sure to have an escape plan that everyone knows," said Summerall, who also highlighted the need to have a working smoke detector. 


The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends following a three step plan to prepare for winter. 


First, build or update your emergency supply kit, making sure to include winter necessities like rock salt to melt ice on walkways, sand to improve traction, snow shovels, and warm clothing and blankets. 


For other recommended supply kit items, check 


Next, make a family emergency plan in case disaster strikes while you''re separated. Know how to contact each other and how you will get back together. 


Finally, be informed about hazards that could cause trouble in your home.  








A few common problems, according to Columbus Fire & Rescue Safety Education Coordinator Carole Summerall, include the following: 


· Keep matches, lighters and other ignitable substances in a secured location out of reach of children, and only use lighters with child-resistant features. 


· Practice your home fire escape plan with your children several times a year. Also practice stop, drop and roll and low crawling. 


· If you smoke, smoke outside. Never smoke when you are drowsy, feeling the effects of alcohol or medication, lying down or in bed. 


· Unplug cracked or frayed electrical cords in your home at once. Have them repaired or replaced. 


· Make sure smoke alarms are installed on every level of your home and outside each sleeping area. 


· Test your smoke alarms once every month and replace them after 10 years. 




Protect yourself 


Take the following steps, recommended by, to protect yourself and your family during the winter months: 


· Make sure your home is well insulated and that you have weather stripping around your doors and windowsills to keep the warm air inside. 


· Insulate pipes with insulation or newspapers and plastic and allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather to avoid freezing. 


· Learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts). 


· Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them. House fires pose an additional risk as more people turn to alternate heating sources without taking the necessary safety precautions. 


· Know ahead of time what you should do to help elderly or disabled friends, neighbors or employees. 


· Hire a contractor to check the structural stability of the roof to sustain unusually heavy weight from the accumulation of snow -- or water, if drains on flat roofs do not work.  


· If you have a car, fill the gas tank in case you have to leave.




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