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National Fire Prevention Week, this past October 9-15, 2011, and this injury prevention blog post is focused on encouraging everyone to check and fireproof their homes. Many needless home fires are caused by poor maintenance or misuse of electrical appliances or wiring, accumulation of combustible clutter, careless use of candles, matches, lighters, and cigarettes. Improper storage of flammable materials and chemical-containing fluids or compounds, such as paint, paint thinner, gasoline, kerosene, furniture stripper, and fire lighter fluid, is also a major cause of house fires.

When checking your home, make sure that flammable items, such as curtains, mattresses, bed and table linens, clothing and carpets, are not in close proximity to lighted candles, portable heaters or other heat sources. Electric appliances should not be operated if their power cords are frayed or taped. Never overload electrical outlets! If you have an appliance that has a short or produces a spark when it should not, have it repaired or ditch it permanently.

Make sure if you have smoke alarms in your home, they are working. If you don’t have smoke alarms, install them outside every sleeping area in your home and make sure to check your batteries annually. Get a fire extinguisher for your kitchen and learn how to use it! If you cook, don’t leave the kitchen while you have food cooking on or in the stove. It’s easy to forget–and food fires are very common.

If you and your family live in a home or an apartment, have a plan in case of fire. Designate a meeting place in your neighborhood where you and your family can meet after they get out of the house, in case of a fire emergency. Map two escape routes from each bedroom if possible and practice them so children and adults know what to do in case of fire. Learn not to burn by teaching everyone in your family, the “Stop, Drop and Roll” routine in case clothes catch fire.

Fire prevention training for kids can never begin to early. Teach children not to play with matches, candles or lighters and remind them not to play around or near a fire. Parents are encouraged to set good examples for children by dousing cigarettes, matches, and leaf, trash or campfires, as well as making sure that trash is disposed of properly in your area. Pay attention to burning laws in your area. Some localities require a burn permit; others may allow burning after a certain time of day or with weather restrictions.

For Virginians, the Virginia Department of Fire Programs has announced there will be a "Play Safe!, Be Safe!" Workshop to train trainers to teach kids fire safety. Play safe! Be safe! is an award-winning fire safety education program created especially for children ages three to five, developed by BIC Corporation in cooperation with educators and fire safety experts. The first workshop will be held November 10, 2011, from 9 a.m. until 12 noon (Location: 7701 E. Parham Rd. Henrico VA 23294), and another one will be held March 28, 2012 in Loudon,Virginia (Location to be advised). We hope there will be additional workshops scheduled throughout Virginia in the coming year. For more information about the Play Safe! Be Safe! Training workshops or to register, please contact J.D. Jenkins, Public Education Coordinator, Virginia Fire Marshal Academy, Virginia Department of Fire Programs, Glen Allen, Virginia at (540) 249-4177.

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