by Allen Pigeon
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recently featured a scary story with a, fortunately, happy ending. The story focused on a family from Maryland who suffered a kitchen fire that started from an unattended candle (the homeowner was outside). The family’s infant son was asleep upstairs when the fire broke out. This story has a happy ending because the state of Maryland requires fire sprinklers in all new-construction homes. So, in this case, a fire sprinkler was activated, the homeowner was alerted by the smoke alarm, and she was able to save her child and no injuries were sustained. Additionally, because of the sprinkler, the fire was contained to the kitchen, and when the volunteer fire department arrived, they were able to minimize property damage.
My main focus for electrical engineering is power distribution and lighting; however, I belong to the NFPA and prioritize life/fire safety because my work often involves emergency power and lighting and fire alarm upgrades. These systems are typically allied and are often considered together. But, more than that, life safety is just important. It’s important to us all. While the loss of property is always unfortunate, the loss of life (or injury resulting from fire) is tragic. And while we will always do our best to put safety precautions in place, accidents can still occur.
Though I traditionally work with industrial clients, home safety is something with which we can all use a reminder. Therefore, I want to share with you these fire safety tips from the NFPA in hopes that you’ll implement them and that they will keep you and your loved ones safe:
- Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you must leave, even for a short time, turn off the stove.
- Keep fixed and portable space heaters at least three feet from anything that can burn. Turn off heaters when you leave the room or go to sleep.
- Ask smokers to smoke outside. Have sturdy, deep ashtrays for smokers.
- Keep matches and lighters up high, out of the reach of children, preferably in a cabinet with a child lock.
- Replace cords that are cracked, damaged, have broken plugs, or have loose connections.
- Keep candles at least one foot from anything that can burn. Blow out candles when you leave the room or go to sleep.
- Make a home fire escape plan and practice it at least twice a year.
- Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Interconnect smoke alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.
- Test smoke alarms at least once a month and replace batteries once a year or when the alarm “chirps” to tell you the battery is low. Replace any smoke alarm that is more than 10 years old.
- If you are building or remodeling your home, install residential fire sprinklers. Sprinklers can contain, and may even extinguish, a fire in less time than it would take the fire department to arrive.
Safety does not happen by chance – it is purposeful and prioritized for a reason. I hope you find these tips useful, and I hope you all stay safe.
About the Author
Allen Pigeon is a Senior Electrical Engineer who specializes in the design of electrical systems associated with buildings. This includes the code research, calculations, preparation of specifications and drawings, cost estimating, and construction administration. He has experience with site electrical distribution, site lighting, building power distribution, emergency power distribution, interior lighting, fire alarm, public address systems, and data and telecommunication systems.