By Tom Kiurski
I came across a Canadian survey of what items people have on their spring cleaning lists. While fire safety may not be high on the list of respondents, spring (along with every other season) has some safety issues that should be addressed. What items would make your list?
Topping the list of spring cleaning tasks in the survey is sorting through seasonal clothing and donating unwanted items. This was cited by 72 percent of respondents and it is a great way to get started. Not only does this help those we donate the clothing to, it keeps our homes from getting cluttered and hard to move through. I have had my share of moving slowly through homes that are cluttered, without sight due to smoke from fire in the home. It is a slow and dangerous crawl, and the added fuel gives the fire more to burn, which increases heat and smoke production.
Another 46 percent of respondents indicated they would be doing some extra cleaning in the kitchen. This also helps out the fire safety picture, as the buildup of grease and oil from cooking that may splatter on the back of the stove, cupboard walls and floor gives fire an easy place to start or spread to. Keeping cooking surfaces clean, having a fire extinguisher handy (that you know how to use), and taking out the pan and lid that you plan on using are also good fire safety tips. The lid to the pan can be used to smother out an unwanted fire that may start by eliminating the oxygen, as you then can shut off the heat to the burner.
Less than half of the respondents checked off the box on the survey that had direct impact on fire safety. Only 26 percent stated they would be removing potential fire hazards from their homes that have not been used, such as paint and cleaning products. One-third of respondents stated that they would be replacing smoke alarm batteries in their homes, and this should include carbon monoxide alarms as well. I generally don't replace my smoke alarm batteries in the spring either. I replace them in December, as it is my habit to buy extra batteries at that time of year since I had to buy so many for my kids' toys. My kids are now older, but I have continued that schedule of smoke alarm battery changing.
Smoke alarms should be tested monthly and the entire unit replaced every 10 years. If you aren't sure how old your smoke alarm is, then take it off the ceiling and look at the back of the unit. It should have the year that it was made clearly labeled on the unit. If you don't see it, it is probably more than 10 years old since the smoke alarm marking system I refer to started in the year 2000. The units are inexpensive enough to replace every 10 years, and the technology gets better all the time. Remember smoke alarms activating from shower steam? The technology is much better today, and we get almost no activations from showers any more.
Spring cleaning is a great time to look at the safety measures in your home, and take a few minutes to maintain them. Your family will be glad you did.
Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.