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Fire Safety - Important No Matter Who You Are: Henri Degre

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Henri Degre, Product Development Manager for Mobile Concepts by SCOTTY, believes more people should pay attention to fire safety. "Fire safety is very important,” Degre says. “If you act properly ahead of time, you can minimize your risk of a fire."

The problem with fire is that it can strike at any time, he says. Fire is not discriminatory; whether at a business, public place, or your own home, it's important to be prepared and take the necessary precautions to help prevent fires and encourage fire safety.

Degre says that the most important initial thing to do with your family regarding fire safety is to practice and implement a fire drill for your home. Walk your family through so everyone knows what to do and where to go in case of fire and inspect all possible exits and escape routes for any barriers to escape.

Every room in the house should have at least two escape exits, he says. If one of these is a window from a second story, install ladders that can be dropped from the windows. Degre also notes that it is very important to choose an outside meeting place a safe distance from the front of your home, where family members can meet after they have escaped.

Ensuring that your family is aware of several ways of escaping your home in case of fire is critical, Degre says. Fire and burns are the leading cause of unintentional home injury deaths for children under age 14, according to national data from the Home Safety Council and National Fire Protection Association. They report that on average, 782 children die from fire and burns each year, and nearly 80,000 suffer non-fatal injuries.

Henri Degre suggests that you install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on all levels of your home. NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm Code® requires interconnected smoke alarms throughout the home. This ensures that when one alarm rings, they all ring. The American Red Cross reports that 65 percent of house fire deaths occur in homes with no working smoke alarms, so it is essential that you test your smoke alarms to make sure they are in full working order and that they have fully functional batteries at least three times per year.

With regard to fire prevention, Henri Degre notes that all combustible materials and dangerous tools should be stored in a well-ventilated area, preferably in a garage or shed away from the home. Gasoline and other flammable liquids should be stored in approved metal safety cans.
According to the US Fire Administration, the highest number of home fires (56 percent) is caused by accidents when cooking. Henri Degre warns that it imperative to never leave cooking food unattended. He says to always stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food. If you have to leave the kitchen, even for a second, he says, turn off the stove.

Any items that are flammable or that can catch fire, pot holders, oven mitts, dish towels, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, etc. should be kept well away from your stove, oven or any other appliance in the kitchen that generates heat. With regard to the stove, toasters and microwave ovens, Degre recommends that these cooking areas get cleaned on a regular basis to prevent grease buildup.

He also recommends that you never wear loose clothing or dangling sleeves while cooking. The cooking area should also be a “kid-free zone”. Children, he says, should be kept at least three feet away from the stove. Other advice that Degre gives cooks is to keep the handles of your pots turned inward, so the pots can't be knocked over.

Degre also recommends installing a dry chemical fire extinguisher in the kitchen, which can assist if you do have a grease fire.

Electrical safety is also of vital significance, when it comes to protecting your home from fire. Henri Degre cautions against overloading electrical circuits with too many appliances. If your fuses are blowing or your circuit breakers are popping, hire an electrician to look at your system. An electrical outlet or switch that is unusually warm or hot to the touch may indicate a potentially dangerous wiring condition. In such a situation, he advises that you unplug cords, avoid using switches, and also call an electrician to check the wiring.

In regard to electrical fire safety, Degre also instructs that home owners should not run extension cords under rugs or carpets. Some cords can wear easily and may short out, causing a fire. Nails or staples used to attach electrical cords to the walls or baseboards are other hazards that can damage the cords and cause fire or shock hazards. He advises that you tape cords to walls or floors instead of using nails or staples.

A report published last year by the National Fire Protection Association shows that U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 366,600 home structure fires from 2007 to 2011. If all home owners followed Henri Degre’s fire safety recommendations, that number would be greatly reduced.