Livonia Professional Firefighters
IAFF Local 1164 - Serving The City Of Livonia Since 1941
  • July 22, 2017
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    Updated: Jul. 22 (09:10)

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    Home Fire Escape

     
     
    Download your own Home Safety Checklist (PDF)

    Hey Livonia

    Abby and Julia have scored a home run for fire safety and so can YOU.

    NFPA visited their home to help them do their own fire safety inspection. Click on the different types of home fire safety issues and see how they did!
     
    When you are done, hit your own fire safety home run – print out the safety checklist that Abby and Julia used. Ask a grown-up to help you conduct a fire safety inspection of your home in Livonia, Michigan...
     
    Click here to begin!

     

    Complete Fire Safety Check List >>> www.livoniafirefighters.com/index.cfm

    Fire Safety For Kids>>>http://www.firesafekids.org/games.html

    Hazards In The Home >>  https://www.budgetdirect.com.au/homehazards/

    Fire Extinguishers

    With so many fire extinguishers to choose from, selecting the proper one for your home can be a daunting task. Everyone should have at least one fire extinguisher at home, but it's just as important to ensure you have the proper type of fire extinguisher. Fire protection experts recommend one for the kitchen, the garage and workshop.

    Fire extinguishers are divided into four categories, based on different types of fires. Each fire extinguisher also has a numerical rating that serves as a guide for the amount of fire the extinguisher can handle. The higher the number, the more fire-fighting power. The following is a quick guide to help choose the right type of extinguisher.

    Fire Extinguisher
    • Class A extinguishers are for ordinary combustible materials such as paper, wood, cardboard, and most plastics. The numerical rating on these types of extinguishers indicates the amount of water it holds and the amount of fire it can extinguish. Geometric symbol (green triangle)
    • Class B fires involve flammable or combustible liquids such as gasoline, kerosene, grease and oil. The numerical rating for class B extinguishers indicates the approximate number of square feet of fire it can extinguish. Geometric symbol (red square)
    • Class C fires involve electrical equipment, such as appliances, wiring, circuit breakers and outlets. Never use water to extinguish class C fires - the risk of electrical shock is far too great! Class C extinguishers do not have a numerical rating. The C classification means the extinguishing agent is non-conductive. Geometric symbol (blue circle)
    • Class D fire extinguishers are commonly found in a chemical laboratory. They are for fires that involve combustible metals, such as magnesium, titanium, potassium and sodium. These types of extinguishers also have no numerical rating, nor are they given a multi-purpose rating - they are designed for class D fires only. Geometric symbol (Yellow Decagon)
    • Class K fire extinguishers are for fires that involve cooking oils, trans-fats, or fats in cooking appliances and are typically found in restaurant and cafeteria kitchens. Geometric symbol (black hexagon)

    Some fires may involve a combination of these classifications. Your fire extinguishers should have ABC ratings on them.

    Here are the most common types of fire extinguishers:

    sher is important.
    • Water extinguishers or APW extinguishers (air-pressurized water) are suitable for class A fires only. Never use a water extinguisher on grease fires, electrical fires or class D fires - the flames will spread and make the fire bigger! Water extinguishers are filled with water and are typically pressurized with air. Again - water extinguishers can be very dangerous in the wrong type of situation. Only fight the fire if you're certain it contains ordinary combustible materials only.
    • Dry chemical extinguishers come in a variety of types and are suitable for a combination of class A, B and C fires. These are filled with foam or powder and pressurized with nitrogen.
      • BC - This is the regular type of dry chemical extinguisher. It is filled with sodium bicarbonate or potassium bicarbonate. The BC variety leaves a mildly corrosive residue which must be cleaned immediately to prevent any damage to materials.
      • ABC - This is the multipurpose dry chemical extinguisher. The ABC type is filled with monoammonium phosphate, a yellow powder that leaves a sticky residue that may be damaging to electrical appliances such as a computer

    Dry chemical extinguishers have an advantage over CO2 extinguishers since they leave a non-flammable substance on the extinguished material, reducing the likelihood of re-ignition.

    • Carbon Dioxide (CO2) extinguishers are used for class B and C fires. CO2 extinguishers contain carbon dioxide, a non-flammable gas, and are highly pressurized. The pressure is so great that it is not uncommon for bits of dry ice to shoot out the nozzle. They don't work very well on class A fires because they may not be able to displace enough oxygen to put the fire out, causing it to re-ignite.

    CO2 extinguishers have an advantage over dry chemical extinguishers since they don't leave a harmful residue - a good choice for an electrical fire on a computer or other favorite electronic device such as a stereo or TV.

    It is vital to know what type of extinguisher you are using. Using the wrong type of extinguisher for the wrong type of fire can be life-threatening.

    These are only the common types of fire extinguishers. There are many others to choose from. Base your selection on the classification and the extinguisher's compatibility with the items you wish to protect.

    Before using your fire extinguisher, be sure to read the instructions before it's too late. Although there are many different types of fire extinguishers, all of them operate in a similar manner.

    Use this acronym as a quick reference (it is a good idea to print this reference and pin it next to your fire extinguisher):

    P
    A
    S
    S

    Pull the Pin at the top of the extinguisher. The pin releases a locking mechanism and will allow you to discharge the extinguisher.

    Aim at the base of the fire, not the flames. This is important - in order to put out the fire, you must extinguish the fuel.

    Squeeze the lever slowly. This will release the extinguishing agent in the extinguisher. If the handle is released, the discharge will stop.

    Sweep from side to side. Using a sweeping motion, move the fire extinguisher back and forth until the fire is completely out. Operate the extinguisher from a safe distance, several feet away, and then move towards the fire once it starts to diminish. Be sure to read the instructions on your fire extinguisher - different fire extinguishers recommend operating them from different distances. Remember: Aim at the base of the fire, not at the flames!!!!

    A typical fire extinguisher contains 10 seconds of extinguishing power. This could be less if it has already been partially discharged. Always read the instructions that come with the fire extinguisher beforehand and become familiarized with its parts. It is highly recommended by fire prevention experts that you get hands-on training before operating a fire extinguisher. Most local fire departments offer this service.

    Once the fire is out, don't walk away! Watch the area for a few minutes in case it re-ignites. Recharge the extinguisher immediately after use.


    According to the National Fire Protection Association

    http://www.nfpa.org/

    • In 2003, 80% of fires in the United States occurred in the home, resulting in 3,925 fire deaths.
    • In the U.S., someone dies from a home fire roughly every 134 minutes.
    • In Canada, someone is fatally injured in a home fire roughly every 31 hours. 
    • Roughly half of all home fire deaths in the U.S. resulted from fires that were reported between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. But only one-quarter of home fires occur between those hours. 
    • Although children five and under make up about 9% of the country's population, they accounted for 17% of the home fire deaths.
    • Smoking was the leading cause of home fire deaths overall, but in the months of December, January and February, smoking and heating equipment caused similar shares of fire deaths.
    • Every 20 seconds, a fire department responds to a fire somewhere in the nation.

     With these startling statistics in mind, here are some safety tips for you:

    SMOKE DETECTORS

    Smoke is responsible for three out of four deaths.

    • Install smoke detectors on every level of your home and outside of sleeping areas.
    • Test every detector at least once a month. [See your instruction book for the location of the test button.]
    • Keep smoke detectors dust free. Replace batteries with new ones at least once a year, or sooner if the detector makes a chirping sound.
    • If you have a smoke detector directly wired into your electrical system, be sure that the little signal light is blinking periodically. This tells you that the alarm is active.
    • Inexpensive smoke detectors are available for the hearing impaired.

    FIRE EXTINGUISHERS

    They remain your best bet if you're on the spot when a fire begins.

    • Fire extinguishers should be mounted in the kitchen, garage, and workshop.
    • Purchase an ABC type extinguisher for extinguishing all types of fires.
    • Learn how to use your fire extinguisher before there is an emergency.
    • Remember, use an extinguisher on small fires only. If there is a large fire, get out immediately and call 911 from another location.

    THINKING AHEAD: Your Exit Plan

    As with other things, the best motto is, "Be Prepared."

    • Prepare a floor plan of your home showing at least two ways out of each room.
    • Sleep with your bedroom door closed. In the event of fire, it helps to hold back heat and smoke. But if a door feels hot, do not open it; escape through another door or window.
    • Easy-to-use window escape ladders are available through many catalogues and outlet stores. For instance, First Alert sells one for around $90.
    • Agree on a fixed location out-of-doors where family members are to gather for a head count.
    • Stay together away from the fire. Call 911 from another location. Make certain that no one goes back inside the burning building.
    • Check corridors and stairways to make sure they are free of obstructions and combustibles.
    • To help cut down on the need for an emergency exit in the first place, clear all unnecessary items from the attic, basement, garage, and closets.

    FIREPLACE

    Remember, you're deliberately bringing fire into your home; respect it.

    • Use a fireplace screen to prevent sparks from flying.
    • Don't store newspapers, kindling, or matches near the fireplace or have an exposed rug or wooden floor right in front of the fireplace.
    • Have your chimney inspected by a professional prior to the start of every heating season and cleaned to remove combustible creosote build-up if necessary.
    • Install a chimney spark arrester to prevent roof fires.
    • When lighting a gas fireplace, strike your match first, then turn on the gas.

    FURNACE/SPACE HEATERS

    Used improperly, a space heater can be the most dangerous appliance in your house.

    • Install and maintain heating equipment correctly. Have your furnace inspected by a professional prior to the start of every heating season .
    • Don't store newspapers, rags, or other combustible materials near a furnace, hot water heater, space heater, etc.
    • Don't leave space heaters operating when you're not in the room.
    • Keep space heaters at least three feet away from anything that might burn, including the wall.
    • Don't use extension cords with electrical space heaters. The high amount of current they require could melt the cord and start a fire.
    • When lighting a gas space heater, strike your match first, then turn on the gas.
    • Never use a gas range as a substitute for a furnace or space heater.

    CLOTHES DRYER

    Under some circumstances, dangerous heat can build up in a dryer.

    • Never leave home with the clothes dryer running.
    • Dryers must be vented to the outside, not into a wall or attic.
    • Clean the lint screen frequently to keep the airway clear.
    • Never put in synthetic fabrics, plastic, rubber, or foam because they retain heat.

    ELECTRICAL HAZARDS

    Electricity, the silent servant, can become a silent assassin.

    • It is better not to use extension cords. If you feel you must use one, make sure that it is not frayed or worn. Do not run it under a rug or twist it around a nail or hook.
    • Never overload a socket. In particular, the use of "octopus" outlets, outlet extensions that accommodate several plugs, is strongly discouraged.
    • Do not use light bulb wattage which is too high for the fixture. Look for the label inside each fixture which tells the maximum wattage.
    • Check periodically for loose wall receptacles, loose wires, or loose lighting fixtures. Sparking means that you've waited too long.
    • Allow air space around the TV to prevent overheating. The same applies to plug-in radios and stereo sets, and to powerful lamps.
    • If a circuit breaker trips or a fuse blows frequently, immediately cut down on the number of appliances on that line.
    • Be sure all electrical equipment bears the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) label.
    • In many older homes, the capacity of the wiring system has not kept pace with today's modern appliances. Overloaded electrical systems invite fire. Watch for these overload signals: dimming lights when an appliance goes on, a shrinking TV picture, slow heating appliances, or fuses blowing frequently. Call a qualified electrician to get expert help.

    KITCHEN

    Careless cooking is the number one cause of residential fires. Never leave cooking unattended.

    • It's wise to have a fire extinguisher near the kitchen. Keep it 10 feet away from the stove on the exit side of the kitchen.
    • Never pour water on a grease fire; turn off the stove and cover the pan with a lid, or close the oven door.
    • Keep pot handles on the stove pointing to the back, and always watch young children in the kitchen.
    • Don't store items on the stove top, as they could catch fire.
    • Keep kitchen appliances clean and in good condition, and turn them off and disconnect them when not in use.
    • Don't overload kitchen electrical outlets and don't use appliances with frayed or cracked wires.
    • Wear tight-fitting clothing when you cook. Here's why: An electrical coil on the stove reaches a temperature of 800 degrees. A gas flame goes over 1,000 degrees. Your dish towel or pot holder can catch fire at 400 degrees. So can your bathrobe, apron, or loose sleeve.
    • Be sure your stove is not located under a window in which curtains are hanging.
    • Clean the exhaust hood and duct over the stove regularly. and wipe up spilled grease as soon as the surface of the stove is cool.
    • Operate your microwave only when there is food in it.

    CHILDREN and GRANDCHILDREN

    One-fourth of all fire-deaths of children are from fires started by children.

    • Keep lighters and matches out of the reach of children.
    • Never leave children unattended with fire or space heaters.
    • Children are naturally curious about fire, so keep an eye on them. But if a child repeatedly plays with fire or seems to have a morbid fascination with fire, seek professional help at once.
    • If youngsters live with you or stay overnight occasionally, be sure that they know how to escape from every room and are part of your emergency exit plan. [See "Thinking Ahead" above]

    GASOLINE AND OTHER FLAMMABLE LIQUIDS

    Those cans aren't painted red just for the fun of it!

    • Flammable liquids should be stored only in approved safety containers, and the containers should be kept outside the house and garage in a separate storage shed.
    • Gas up lawn equipment and snowthrowers outside, away from enclosed areas and any source of sparks or heat.
    • Start the equipment 10 feet from where you filled it with fuel.
    • Don't fill a hot lawn mower, snowthrower, or other motor; let it cool first.
    • Never clean floors or do other general cleaning with gasoline or flammable liquids.

    SMOKING

    If you actually believe that you're immune from cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and other ills, at least worry about burning to death.

    • Never smoke in bed.
    • Don't smoke when you are drinking or are abnormally tired.
    • Use large, deep ashtrays, and empty them frequently.
    • Never dump an ashtray into the trash without wetting the butts and ashes first.


    FIRE SAFTEY ARTICLES

    By Tom Kiurski


    Oct 07, 2012

    Once an unwanted house fire breaks out, it's too late to make a fire escape plan and get your family out safely. According to the United States Fire Administration, there were 2,555 fire deaths and 13,275 injuries in the 362,100 residential fires that occurred in 2010. The fire deaths and injuries often do not make national headline news since they usually die one at a time in home fires. But it happens far too often.

    The first and most important step is to make sure you have plenty of working smoke alarms in your home. There should be at least one on every level of the home, but you can put one in every room. They should be less than 10 years old, and should be tested monthly.

    Batteries should be replaced every year so pick an easy date to remember, like Christmas or a birthday. They should be mounted on the ceiling or high on a wall, since they operate by the smoke from a fire that rises from the burning fuel.

    The next step is to draw a picture of your home from a bird's eye view, with the roof missing. Draw in each room, label it and make an arrow for every way out of each room. This is typically two exits; one being the door and the other being the window. Make sure that everyone is able to operate the door and window, since some sliders have a top lock that is out of the reach for some.

    Choose an outside family meeting place where all family members will meet to do a roll call. Someone should call the fire department, or have a neighbor call. Have someone meet the first arriving fire units and let the firefighters know if everyone is out of the house. This allows them to plan for the rescue, or plan to save your house and property as the first priority. The meeting place can be a large tree, neighbor's porch or other obvious landmark in the front of the house.

    The most important step in the process is to practice the plan. Have everyone run through a test run while in their bedrooms. Have them practice crawling low (under smoke) towards the bedroom door. Feel the door with the back of your hand, and gently touch the doorknob. If it is not hot, open the door slightly and look up. Any smoke or fire outside the door is a signal to close the door and use the window as your exit. The plan should be updated as sleeping arrangements change since most deadly fires happen during the sleeping hours.

    Once completed, the plan should be practiced every six months to help ensure that everyone remembers it and can perform it when needed. You may find that an adult needs to be the one to help an aging grandparent out or assist a young child who cannot open the bedroom window just yet. As always, if you have any further questions about any aspect of your home fire escape plan, stop by the fire department or call.

    Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.


    Jul 21, 2012

    For three decades now, I have been telling people that fire safety is a lot of common sense, planning and practicing what to do in an emergency when you have little time to throw a plan together. These past few weeks, I add a few more people to my list of those who lack fire safety common sense.

    First, we go to Chico, Calif., just one month ago. It seems that someone felt that a propane blowtorch would be a great way to get rid of cobwebs in his back yard. With his family in the house, he lit the torch and began setting fire to the cobwebs. The grass and plants were very dry so they too caught fire when the torch was placed too close to them. As he moved his way around the house, the fire started growing behind him. The uninsured family had to move out of the home due to the heat, smoke and fire damage.

    Not to be outdone, a Houston, Texas, man was quite upset when he found out that his wife from whom he was separated was on a date with another man. He called the wife and said he was going to burn the house down. He filled up two gas cans and poured them inside the home and lit it on fire the next morning, after neighbors saw him pull up to the house after the wife and kids had left for the day. The man admitted to vandalizing the home, but didn't admit to the arson, stating he did not want to go back to prison.

    If my memory serves me, last year a man noticed a bug on his couch. Assuming it was a bedbug, he decided the best way to get rid of them is with fire. He sprayed the entire couch with lighter fluid and lit it inside his home. As you might have guessed, it didn't turn out too well for him.

    A friend of mine told me about a woman who saw a mouse in her house. She jammed newspaper inside the hole the mouse used to get behind the wall. Once she filled the hole with newspaper, she decided to “smoke the mouse out” by lighting the newspaper. Her day was ruined as well.

    I remember a fire magazine reporting a story a few years back about some children in an apartment building playing with a lighter and some lighter fluid. A cat worked his way into the hallway so the kids sprayed it and lit it on fire. As luck would have it, the cat ran into the apartment of the kids who were playing with fire and hid under the bed. I don't think the parents were too happy to find out what their kids were doing in the hallway.

    Before using fire, plan ahead about the hopeful outcome and the possible worst case scenarios that may unfold. If fire is still the plan, make sure you have a way to handle an unexpected fire should one break out. Make sure you have plenty of working smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and a home fire escape plan.

    Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.


    Jul 06, 2012

    While natural disasters do not happen to any one person on a regular basis, they do come to disrupt our daily lives. The recent storms that hit the East Coast and left some families still without power are just one recent example. The Colorado wildfires are another.

    Livonia is rarely struck with earthquakes or hurricanes, but tornadoes and storms (and power outages) can and do strike the area. On March 20, 1976, a tornado struck the 13 Mile and Farmington area, killing one, injuring 55 and causing more than $50 million in damage. When natural disasters strike, it is best to have taken the few moments necessary to prepare for them than be caught by surprise.

    Sit down and make plans on how you should react if you believe a tornado will strike. If you are listening to the radio or watching television and hear the words “Tornado Watch,” that means that weather conditions are capable of producing a tornado. A “Tornado Warning” means that a tornado or funnel cloud has been spotted or radar indications suggest that a tornado has developed. If you look outside, watch for approaching storms that have the following danger signs: dark, often greenish sky, large hail, a large, dark low-lying cloud and a load roar. Keeping close tabs on weather channels will help you to prepare.

    If you are inside a building, go to a pre-designated shelter area if there is one. In the home, go to the basement. If there is no basement, go to the lowest level, in an interior room, such as a closet or hallway. Stay away from windows, doors, corners and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside.

    If you are outside with no shelter, lie flat in a ditch or depression and cover your head and neck with your hands. Never try to outrun the tornado, which has an average speed of 30 mph. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.

    If you are away from your family members after the tornado, get in contact with them to let them know your whereabouts. Damage to phone systems may have occurred so have a plan on where to head after a disaster. If phones work and you are unable to call each other, have an out-of-town relative designated as the one to call to get messages back and forth during an emergency.

    Plan ahead that you may be in your basement or shelter area for a while during the storm. If damage to the house has occurred, you may be trapped until the weather clears. Keep a kit handy that has some necessities in it. A radio and flashlight, with extra batteries, are smart choices, along with drinking water, food and a game or some playing cards to keep occupied.

    Tornadoes happen quite suddenly so don't take the chance on getting in your car and leaving the area. They can travel as fast as 70 mph.

    Other natural disasters, such as hurricanes, can be spotted in advance and landfall can be predicted. This may allow time to pack up and leave the area. Tornadoes are not that predictable. Take a few minutes to plan ahead during tornado season, which is generally spring and early summer.

    Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.


    Jun 17, 2012

    One minute is not a lot of time, but that is how long most people have to escape their home once the smoke alarm signals that the house is on fire. That is just 60 short seconds to get out of the house to safety. Homes have many more plastic products today than ever before so when enough smoke accumulates to sound the smoke alarm, the fire is growing so fast that only those with a well-rehearsed escape plan have the greatest chances of survival. To watch how quickly a fire can burn in a typical home, go to the city's website (www.ci.livonia.mi.us) and visit the fire department page. Choose the “educational videos” section, and watch the short piece titled “Flashover.”

    Without a plan already in place, and plenty of working smoke alarms to signal that fire early in its growth, those 60 seconds can mean the difference between life and death. Once the fire has started and the fire department has been called, it will take us a few minutes to get to your house and get ready to enter the hot, flaming environment.

    People really need to take ownership of home fire safety for those reasons. Although no one wants to have a home fire, the typical attitude is one of “it won't happen to me.” The truth is that more than 3,000 people die in home fires in the United States each year, and many more are injured. Most deaths happen in small numbers, usually one at a time, and this rarely makes headline news for very long.

    So many people assume that today's homes are more fire safe and better built. While the engineering is better, the components are much thinner and will fail at a faster rate than those buildings of a few years ago.

    The good news is that it doesn't take a lot of time or money to make your home more fire safe. Your best weapon is working smoke alarms on all levels of your home, outside of all sleeping areas and even in the bedrooms for maximum protection. Make sure you test them monthly, replace the batteries annually, and replace your smoke alarms every 10 years. If you need a smoke alarm, stop by fire headquarters (Farmington Road, just south of Five Mile) during business hours on Monday through Friday and we will give you a free smoke alarm.

    The next step is to practice a home fire escape plan. This includes all members of your household, and they rehearse their actions if they are awakened by a smoke alarms signal. This includes knowing how to use two ways out of every room in the home, and meeting at an outside meeting place to make sure everyone has made it out safely. Discuss calling the emergency dispatchers who will answer your 911 call for help, and how to get the very basic information across in a timely manner. Take ownership of your home's fire safety.

    Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.


    May 11, 2012

    Over my career, I have responded to many vehicle fires. Many times, the owner is far away and hard to locate to get information from. Other times, that is not the case. Many excited car owners struggle with trying to get items out of their car before it burns further, or is extinguished with copious amounts of water. Some have already tried to get things out of the car, and are busy coughing (and worse) on all fours when we arrive. If your vehicle is burning, be thankful you were able to get out in time and deal with the headache later.

    One in every four fire department responses is to a vehicle fire. This does not include the tens of thousands of responses to vehicle crashes. Each year, these fires result in approximately 500 deaths, 3,000 injuries and more than $1 billion in property loss. Forty-five percent of persons injured in a vehicle fire were injured while attempting to control the fire.

    I have seen many people trying to open a hot hood. The increased oxygen that the open hood supplies will only intensify burning — wait for the fire department to arrive. Firefighters are protected with equipment to help them avoid injury. They also have charged hoselines to fight the fire once the hood is opened.

    Vehicle fires produce high heat levels and plenty of toxic gases. The heat can be in excess of 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, with flames that can shoot as high as 10 feet from the vehicle. The smoke will rise significantly higher than that. While all fires give off deadly gases that can impair your judgment, you need to determine a course of action if you are driving a vehicle that catches fire.

    If you are driving and notice visible smoke coming from the vehicle, pull over and stop on the side of the road as soon as safely possible. Park the car, set the parking brake and turn off the ignition. If the ignition is left on, the fuel pump may continue to pump fuel from the gas tank into the engine compartment. Then, get out of the car and step well away.

    Once you are out, call the fire department and give the location of the vehicle. If the fire is under the hood or in the trunk, do not attempt to open these compartments. In addition to adding fresh air for the fire, you may also meet an exploding vessel, such as a hood or hatchback strut. Bumpers can also explode, as they are held in place by enclosed vessels. Once the fire heats up the vessels, they want to expand and possibly explode.

    If you were able to grab the insurance papers and personal property without risking injury, that is helpful. If you think about this after the fire is spreading, don't take the chance. Vehicle fires can flare up unexpectedly, car tires can blow, struts can explode and many other unhappy experiences can occur. Don't take a chance with a burning vehicle. Leave it to the professionals.

    Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.


    May 01, 2012

    Apr 13, 2012

    While surfing through my favorite fire-related websites, I found some statistics that were disturbing to some state officials (hence the article I read). The United States Fire Administration published its most recent study on fire deaths. As they break these statistics out by state, they found that the national average is 12 out of every million Americans died due to fire each year. This news was quite alarming to West Virginia officials, as they had a death rate of 23.7 per million, making them nearly twice as likely to be killed by a fire as the average American.

    According to the National Fire Protection Association, 96 percent of American homes have at least one smoke alarm. Not surprising is the fact that most home fire deaths happen in the small percentage of homes that do not have smoke alarms.

    Risk factors for home fires include poverty, senior citizens, rural living residents, smokers, low-education levels and people who live in manufactured homes or substandard housing. West Virginia officials claim that their state has many folks living with many of the above-mentioned risk factors.

    Some of the risk factors can't be helped; people age and we will always have senior populations. Some of the risk factors can be controlled. I can't educate everyone in the state, but I can try to improve our knowledge of the life-saving devices called smoke alarms.

    You should have a minimum of one on every floor of your home, but you can certainly have plenty more. My modest Livonia home has 10. Install them on ceilings, or high on a wall, but avoid the absolute corner. If Livonia residents can't afford a smoke alarm, they can stop by fire headquarters on Farmington Road, just south of Five Mile, during regular business hours and get a free one; battery included! Smoke alarms should be tested monthly and batteries changed annually. Bring the family along for the educational opportunity that this brings, raising their level of education about smoke alarms in the home.

    While the state of Michigan has some of the above-mentioned risk factors (as do all states), we have less of them than some of the states with higher fire deaths. The article that caught my attention was about West Virginia, and I hope they take this eye-opening statistic and find ways to bring those high fire death rates down. But they aren't the worst state in the country. The Washington D.C. area boasts the highest fire death rate at 32.2 per million population, followed by Oklahoma at 26.4. Where is Michigan, you might be wondering? It is in the middle of the pack with a rate of 14.8.

    You might also be wondering which state has the lowest fire deaths rate in the country. I did too, and I scrolled down to the bottom of the list and there it was…Hawaii (at an amazingly low rate of just 1.6 deaths per million population). Aloha!

    Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.


    Apr 06, 2012

    Safety is a top priority in our lives. If we remember back to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, he puts safety and security as one of the top priorities that we pursue. According to the Home Safety Council, less than one-third of homeowners make any safety improvements. Some aren't sure what actions to take and some state that they don't have enough time to do the necessary improvements.

    If you aren't sure what actions to take, or feel that time is at a minimum, let's break up the home safety concept into smaller pieces and tackle them that way. Within seven days, you can have a more safe and secure home.

    Day one can be the bathrooms. Move medicines and other potentially dangerous items into a high (or even locked) cabinet so children and grandchildren will not have them close at hand. To avoid scald injuries, set your hot water heater below 120 degrees. Finally, consider installing grab bars in the bathroom to prevent falls. Many of today's grab bars serve other functions, like towel bars, so you aren't transforming your comfy bathroom into an institutional-looking bathroom.

    Day two moves us into the kitchen, where we start by moving dangerous items — sharp knives, scissors, appliance cords, etc. — out of the reach of children. Cleaning items should all be kept in one cupboard, and it should be locked it if you have, or expect, young children in your home. Childproof locks can be inconspicuous from the outside so we are not talking about padlocks and chains in your kitchen. Keep a fire extinguisher near the cooking area, as cooking is the No. 1 cause of house fires.

    Day three can be spent checking out your hallways and stairs. Make sure you have good lighting in these areas and remove any trip hazards. Install or repair handrails as necessary. Make sure you have working smoke alarms in the hallways, test them monthly and change the batteries annually.

    Electrical and heating inspections are on tap for day four. Put safety plugs in electrical outlets if children are expected in the home. Don't overload electrical outlets, and consider ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) and/or arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCI) near water sources. You should avoid using extension cords for permanent wiring and make sure you have a three-foot clearance around heat sources such as furnaces, hot water heaters, fireplaces and portable space heaters.

    Day five is bedroom inspection day. Remove any dangling cords around blinds and curtains to prevent strangulation hazards and be sure everyone knows how to operate the windows so they can get out quickly in a fire emergency. Make sure you can escape upper floors onto a lower roof or purchase an escape ladder.

    Day six is where you can spend a few minutes looking at your family, living or great rooms for hazards. Make sure shelves and bookcases are secure from tipping over, as kids see them as ladders. Have your fireplace and heating system inspected annually to ensure proper operation.

    Finally, the seventh day arrives. Go over your fire escape plan with your family and practice it. Include two ways out of every room, how to use them and a rendezvous at your family meeting place.

    Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.


    Mar 23, 2012

    While we all know the dangers of an unwanted fire in your home, the numbers are staggering. A fire in your home can become untenable in less than three minutes. This is the amount of time you have to react and get out once a fire starts. That isn't much time. Preparation with safety items in your home and practice are the key to a safe survival.

    We have to be faster than our parents. Back in 1975, the average time for a fire to become untenable was 17 minutes. We are now looking at an 82-percent difference in the time to escape. It isn't just the type of house you live in, but what you put inside of it.

    The furniture of old was made largely of natural-based products. Today's furniture is synthetic-based, and our upholstered furniture and mattresses give off heat and smoke at a much faster rate. Polyurethane foam, making up our cushions and mattresses, is highly flammable.

    The homes of the past dozen years have included a more open floor plan, allowing fire and smoke to travel easily inside the home. The building materials used are much thinner and lead to a faster burn-through and collapse.

    Think about wooden blocks and dolls clothing made of scrap materials. Compare that to the plastic toys that are available in abundance today, and synthetic clothing for the dolls. Plastics are easy and economical to work with when making toys, but rarely do the manufacturers consider the high flammability of those products and the risk it puts to the families who buy them.

    The good news is that we are not dying in the large numbers that we did back then. The development of smoke alarm technology, and its widespread use, have given most families the time they need to exit their home in case of an unwanted fire.

    The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) tells us that 96 percent of U.S. homes have at least one smoke alarm, which is encouraging. The sad news is that the majority of fire deaths occur in homes that do not have a smoke alarm, or the one(s) they have do not work, usually because of dead or missing batteries.

    It may be difficult to go out and find toys and furnishings just like you had when you were a child to put in your home. Plastics and synthetics are here to stay, it seems.

    We can only encourage you to have plenty of working smoke alarms in your home. Test them once a month, change the batteries every year, and practice a fire escape plan twice a year. This includes how to escape your home from every way out in case fire is blocking your primary exit. You also need to meet at the outside family meeting place to conduct a head count of family members. Once outside, call 911 and tell first arriving firefighters if everyone is out or not. Hurry and do this — you may not have much time!

    Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.


    Mar 20, 2012

    Back in February, I had some arthroscopic knee surgery done to repair some cartilage. The day of the surgery and the next day were kind of foggy to me. There is a strange feeling you get when you are on prescription pain killers to help the healing process along. They are prescribed for a reason, but you just can't function well while under their influence. As I weaned myself off the pain killers on day three, I was happy to be in full control of my senses and aware of what was going on around me.

    Some of the visits and phone calls from family and friends I remembered; others I did not. I was shocked to learn of some of the visits and calls that I answered, but now have no recollection of. This got me to thinking about what it would be like trying to come up with an emergency escape plan while a fire is burning inside your home.

    Most of us may think that it would be easy to come up with an escape plan for your own home. After all, you aren't ever more than a few steps away from a window or a door. You know your own home so well it would be hard to get lost in it. Those are both reasons that I have heard people tell me for not making an escape plan ahead of time. Why bother?

    Keep in mind if you have an unwanted fire in your home, you are being exposed to many different products of combustion. Carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide are both responsible for the one-two punch of confusion and sleepiness. It can make it hard to open a door by turning the handle while under the influence of these “toxic twins.” They take away reason and logic while oxygen is being deprived from the brain.

    High heat levels build up incredibly fast in a compartment, such as in a room or a level in the home. The searing heat raising the temperature of your body has to be mind-numbing. How can one focus on tasks while your brain is screaming to do nothing but stop the pain? Temperatures of more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit are not uncommon in rooms on fire, and the higher you are, the hotter it is. This is why it is important to practice crawling low under smoke. We have all heard it before, but get down on your hands and knees and practice crawling to your doors. This will make it more automatic for you to do this if you have that memory marker that you have done it before.

    The “fog” of my two days on pain medications made me wonder if that is the same feeling people may have when trying to make a good plan during less-than-perfect conditions. The key is to prepare and practice a fire escape plan with your family while everyone is awake and alert.

    Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.


    Feb 23, 2012

    No doubt, you are all familiar with the many advancements made by Benjamin Franklin. While the bifocals, the Franklin stove, his kite experiment while studying electricity and his political ambitions are well- documented, he is famous for several other items as well. He published Poor Richard's Almanac, where he coined the phrase, “A penny saved is a penny earned” among others. He also is credited with another famous saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

    That quote was actually firefighting advice. Back in those days, any who suffered fire damage to their homes often took on irreversible economic loss. It was not long after that when he found the Philadelphia Contribution for Insurance Against Loss by Fire, among the first fire insurance writers in the New World.

    Ben wrote a letter to his sister in Boston in 1778, which stated, in part:

    “I lament the loss your town has suffered this year by fire. I sometimes think men do not act like reasonable creatures when they build for themselves combustible dwellings, in which they are every day obliged to use fire. In my new buildings, I have taken a few precautions not generally used: to wit, none of the wooden work communicates with the wooden work of another room (he speaks of limiting fire spread by compartmentation and design), all the floors and even the steps of the stairs are plastered close to the boarder, besides the plastering on the lathe under the joints (he is talking about sealing off cracks to not allow fire to spread to the rest of the house).

    “There are also trap doors to go out upon the roofs, that one may go out and wet the shingles in case of a neighboring fire. But indeed, I think the staircase should be made of stone, and the floors tiled as in Paris, and the roofs either tiled or slated.”

    While we don't have the problem of fire spreading from one structure to the next as they did in Ben's days when roofs were made of straw and thatch, his thought of noncombustible roofing materials were well ahead of his time.

    Many of us do not build our own homes, and we have to rely on the codes that were in existence at the time helping to limit the fire spread that Franklin referred to. But we can control what is in our homes that may start fires.

    Spend a few minutes with your family gathering unused items that you can eliminate to reduce the fire load in your home. Discuss and practice safe cooking practices with everyone who cooks. Point out your home smoke alarms and test them so that you can help create the next generation of smoke alarm testers. Discuss and test your carbon monoxide detectors and why they are an important part of your family safety plan.

    By being fire safer in your homes, you can reduce your chances of an unwanted fire. And that can keep you from contacting your fire insurance company, compliments of Ben Franklin.

    Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.


    Feb 16, 2012

    Fires in homes tend to peak in the cooler months as people spend more time indoors and home heating systems are up and operating. Statistics from the U.S. Fire Administration show an annual average of $7 billion in property loss from residential fires, and an average of seven people die as a result of home fires every day in the United States. There are some safety tips that you can practice that can reduce your risk of home fires.

    • Install and maintain smoke alarms in your home. While 96 percent of U.S. homes have at least one smoke alarm, almost two-thirds of home fire deaths occur in homes with no working smoke alarms. Be sure to have at least one on every level in the home, outside sleeping areas and in bedrooms for added safety.
    • Take the time to make your kitchen fire safe. Cooking is the leading cause of home structure fires and home fire injuries. Never leave cooking unattended, turn pot handles in toward the center of the stove to avoid bumping and/or pulling them down and keep the lid to the pan nearby so you can slide the lid and cover unwanted cooking fires if they do occur.
    • Have your chimney cleaned and your heating system checked before the heating season kicks into high gear. In addition to preventing chimney fires, this cleaning can also prevent carbon monoxide from entering your home's living spaces. But just in case, have carbon monoxide detectors installed in the home as well.
    • Illuminate yourself about electrical safety. Don't overload electrical circuits and don't use extension cords for permanent wiring. Check the wires on seasonal decorations prior to use for any cracks or fraying that may start a fire. Replace worn cords with new, approved ones. Use approved indoor lights inside the home and outdoor lights outside.
    • If you do have an unwanted home fire, the first priority is escape. Get everyone out of the house and call 911 from outside the home. Never re-enter a burning building, and inform the first-arriving fire crews of any missing people and where you think the fire may have started, if you know.
    • When you leave the home for work or school, get into the habit of checking the appliances to be sure they are off. Unplug small heating appliances after use, such as irons, hair dryers and space heaters. Repeat this safety check before going to bed as well.
    • Clean the lint filter and flue of your clothes dryer on a regular basis. The lint buildup is responsible for many home fires, and a lint-free dryer works more efficiently as well.
    • Candles should be used in rooms where adults can supervise them, and should be clear of the normal travel paths in the home. Keep a one-foot clearance around the flame, and that includes any blowing or moving shears or blinds that may move into the flame when heating systems turn on or doors are opened and closed.

      Fire safety in the home just takes a few minutes, and can avoid months of heartache in the case of displaced families who may suffer from an unwanted home fire.

      Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.


    Jan 30, 2012

    Many Livonia residents, myself included, are now getting tired of the cold weather, snow, dark skies and biting winds. These weather conditions are normal for those of us living in Michigan, and we need to keep our guard up as fire incidents peak during the cold weather months.

    Recently, an Oregon family of three was hospitalized when responding firefighters found deadly levels of carbon monoxide inside their home. The homeowner called 9-1-1 to report that his daughter may have suffered a seizure and that his wife was feeling ill. The levels of carbon monoxide in the home were very high and rising. Once outside, the family told firefighters that they had just returned home from vacation and turned on their furnace to warm the house up. A maintenance issue sent the gas inside the home.

    Carbon monoxide is a gas used to fuel appliances such as fireplaces, stoves, ovens and furnaces. As it builds up in the home, it cannot be detected by the normal family. In those instances, a carbon monoxide alarm can be the difference between life and death. In the above incident, the family may not have lived much longer had they not called 9-1-1. They had no carbon monoxide alarms in the home.

    A space heater appears to be the cause of a late-night blaze in central Florida back in November. That fire started after the family had fallen asleep. The quick-moving fire killed five occupants who were unable to get out in time. Space heaters are intended to operate when a responsible adult is in the room and able to supervise the appliance. Space heaters should be shut off when leaving the room or going to bed at night. Space heaters also need a three-foot clearance where combustibles are not placed too close to the unit when it is operating.

    A Virginia man had recently escaped his burning home after he was awakened by his working smoke alarms. Although he lost his belongings and furnishings, his life was saved by the activation of his home smoke alarm. Make sure you have plenty of working smoke alarms in your home. They give early warning of smoke, which can buy your family time during a fire. The fire in his home was started in the flue of the wood-burning stove, which had not been cleaned recently.

    The fires that burn our property and our homes usually start off quite unintentionally and quite small in size. Prompt and proper actions may have gotten the families out safely and even extinguished the fire prior to the arrival of the fire department. But fires grow rapidly, and without smoke alarms, they do this when occupants are possibly asleep. We need to take the time to plan ahead on what we can do to be safer in our homes, how we intend to be alerted in case of an unwanted fire and the actions that we plan to take to get out when time is of the essence. Only then are we as prepared as we can be in case fire strikes.

    Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.


    Jan 23, 2012

    Many U. S. families have a home fire escape plan, but the majority of them never practice it, says a recent survey by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). They recommend practicing a home fire drill twice annually, while it wouldn't be a bad idea to practice it more than that to improve reaction time in case of a fire emergency.

    Many adults feel their children will wake up when smoke alarms sound, but this is not always the case. Children tend to tune out white noise when they go to bed. They sleep through television shows, radios, talking and the hum of vacuum cleaners, washing machines and dishwashers. If your children don't wake up, then make sure a responsible adult is assigned to wake them up as part of the drill.

    Once awake, plan to get out of the house and go to a family meeting place, where everyone goes for a head count. Once there, you can call 911 and alert your Livonia firefighters of the incident. Never re-enter a burning building, and meet first-arriving firefighters to let them know if everyone is accounted for.

    This is why it is important to practice the occasional fire drill at night. The objective is to practice, not to frighten, so telling children there will be a drill before they go to bed can be as effective as a surprise drill, as they don't know when it will happen that night.

    Smoke alarms are an important part of a fire escape plan, and properly working smoke alarms can cut the risk of dying in a home fire in half. Unfortunately, according to the NFPA, roughly two-thirds of home fire deaths happen in homes with no working smoke alarms. About 20 percent of smoke alarm failures were because of dead or missing batteries.

    Smoke alarms should be installed on every level of the home, including the basement, outside of each sleeping area in the home and inside each bedroom. It is recommended that smoke alarms be interconnected, so that when one smoke alarm sounds, they all sound. If you hear your smoke alarm “chirping,” it usually means the battery is almost dead and needs to be changed. A standard 9-volt battery should last you the full year without any “chirping” to listen to. Most batteries will chirp for two weeks in a smoke alarm before totally dying. The exception is the smoke alarms equipped with 10-year batteries that do not need replacing.

    All smoke alarms, including alarms that use 10-year batteries and those that are hard-wired, should be replaced when they reach 10 years old.

    Seconds and minutes can mean the difference between life and death in a fire situation. Preparation is an important part of being able to deal with this fast-moving type of an emergency. Prepare your family by having an escape plan and practice it at least twice a year

    Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.


    Jan 02, 2012

    Relaxing with the family in front of the fireplace during the cold winter months is a wonderful way to pass some of the cold evenings we face here in Michigan. While we can get great pleasure out of this activity, if we do not properly maintain our fireplaces and chimneys, it can lead to a tragedy.

    One problem with fireplaces is the buildup of creosote inside the chimney walls. Creosote is the byproduct of burning wood, but when it builds up inside the chimney, it can cut off ventilation and catch fire. If you use your fireplace, you should have your chimney cleaned and inspected at least once a year.

    As you prepare for your first fires of the season, make sure you go over the basics. Open the damper to allow the smoke (as well as other dangerous gases) and heat to rise up and out of the chimney, move flammable decorations away from the area and keep small children back from the fireplace as you prepare for lighting the fire. Never use flammable or combustible liquids to “help” the fire start, and avoid the temptation of getting the fire too large.

    Inside the house, we have a rule about open flames. All combustible materials should be kept at least three feet away from any open flame or heat source. This means the fireplace, so even after a cold evening of building a snowman and lighting a fire in the fireplace, you, your kids and your gloves should all be kept back three feet from the fireplace. The fireplace screen should be used so that sparks and embers cannot leave the fireplace. Supervision is a must, so based on the ages of your children, you must determine if an adult must be in the room in which the fire is burning, or if the children are old enough to understand the hazards involved.

    Don't leave the home or go to bed with a fire still burning in the fireplace. Use only dry wood or other commercially available fireplace products (but only after reading the directions) in the fireplace. They are not designed to burn cardboard, trash or wrapping paper, as this can cause a premature buildup of creosote inside the chimney.

    Be sure that all ashes have thoroughly cooled before you dispose of them, preferably in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid. Once the ashes are in the container, it is best to store them outdoors and away from the home.

    Once you have read and planned for your upcoming season of fireplace fires, you have now completed the “Fireplace 101 Refresher Course.” Enjoy the season!

    Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.


    Dec 18, 2011
    Just a few days before Christmas in 1990, a Christmas tree in a Canton home burst into flames. The man tried to pull the burning tree out of the doorwall in the back of the home. The tree wedged in the doorwall and ignited nearby combustibles, quickly spreading the fire. He and his wife tried desperately to get their children out safely, but seven people died in that fire.
    Dec 01, 2011

    Beautifully decorated homes, both inside and out, are typical sights this time of year in Livonia. However, they also play a role in many home fires during the holiday season. Fires involving Christmas trees, decorative lights, as well as typical holiday activities like candles, cooking and fireplaces being lit, contribute to the risks associated with the holiday season.

    I remember my mother-in-law telling me about lighting candles on her childhood Christmas tree. I am certainly glad that this tradition has changed, as it must have displaced many families around this time of year. There are still risks that we engage in during the holidays, but some simple preventative steps can help avoid negative consequences.

    Fire departments in the United States respond to approximately 250 home fires each year that have been caused by Christmas trees. About half of them are caused by electrical problems, and about one-fourth of them result from a heat source that is too close to the tree. To avoid problems, make sure you place your tree away from heat sources, like fireplaces, space heaters and radiators. It should also be kept out of the path of emergency escape from the home so that it does not block people from exiting.

    If you are looking for a real tree, choose a fresh tree where the needles don't fall off when touched. A fresh cut at the base of a tree should be made to aid in water absorption and retention, and it should be watered daily. Artificial trees should be labeled as fire-retardant.

    Lights should also be labeled by an independent testing laboratory. Use indoor lights inside the home and outdoor lights outside. Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Turn off the tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.

    Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling or broiling food. Since most cooking fires involve the stovetop, keep anything that can catch fire away from it, and be sure to turn off the stove when you leave the kitchen. If you are simmering, boiling, baking or roasting, check the food regularly, and use a timer to remind you to do just that. Keep children away from the cooking area when in use so they don't bump into it.

    Candles are part of the decorations in many Livonia homes, and December is the peak month for home candle fires. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) statistics show that more than half of all candle fires start because the candle was too close to things that could catch fire. Keep candles at least one foot away from anything that can burn or blow into them, and remember to blow them out when you leave the room or go to bed. Use sturdy candle holders, and never allow children to burn candles in their bedrooms. Consider using flameless candles, which can look and smell just like real candles.

    If you use your fireplace, it should be cleaned and inspected annually. When lighting a fire, be sure to move combustibles three feet away from the fire, and use the screen to keep in any sparks and embers.

    Just a few simple tips for the holiday season can make for a great time. Celebrate with family and friends the fire-safe way!

    Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.


    Nov 14, 2011

    A properly maintained smoke alarm will work forever, right? Changing batteries at least once a year is necessary, but I am asking about the smoke alarm itself. Actually, the answer to the question is “No.” All hard-wired or battery-operated smoke alarms installed more than 10 years ago should be replaced now!

    A smoke alarm's lifespan is 10 years, which means that any smoke alarm over 10 years old is deemed unreliable. Part of smoke alarm maintenance is knowing when to replace the units. The few minutes it takes to replace a smoke alarm can save the lives of roommates, family members, neighbors and firefighters. How do you know if your smoke alarm is 10 years old or not? Any smoke alarm manufactured since 2000 must have the year of manufacture clearly and boldly identified on the unit. If you don't see a year of manufacture, it is more than 10 years old.

    More than 3,000 people die in home fires each year and the majority of them have no working smoke alarms. With all the reminders about smoke alarm installation and maintenance, it seems like most of those deaths could be prevented with working smoke alarms. Smoke alarms save lives!

    Every residence should be equipped with both ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms or dual-sensor smoke alarms, which contain both technologies listed above. It may sound confusing, but read the small print when you purchase your next smoke alarm. It is worth the time it takes to get the right type of smoke alarms.

    Properly working smoke alarms should be installed and maintained both inside and outside of the sleeping areas of your home, and there should be a minimum of one on every level of your home, including the basement. Interconnected smoke alarms are best because if one sounds, they all sound. Since most fires happen during the night, it is important that they are loud enough to wake sleeping family members.

    Test smoke alarms every month, and bring the family along. It is important that all family members know the sound of a smoke alarm when activated so there is no question about where the noise came from. Change the batteries once a year. You can use an easy date to remember to change all the smoke alarm batteries, like your birthday, New Year's Day or when you change your clocks for Daylight Savings Time.

    Smoke alarms are a great part of your home escape plan, but they do need to be properly located, tested and the batteries need to be replaced annually. Take the time to draw up a home fire escape plan with your family and practice it twice a year. This will help to make the behavior easier to remember when it may actually be needed. If you need help with your home fire escape plan or have any questions about it, feel free to contact any of your Livonia firefighters for assistance.

    Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.


    Nov 08, 2011

    I recently had someone ask me about escaping a burning home if they are above the ground floor. While most of us are within a few steps of a window in most of our homes, the upper floor presents challenges that are unique. The key to survival is planning ahead for the upper-floor escape.

    Two- and three-story fire escape ladders are the most common types, and can be purchased locally at hardware and home improvement stores. While doing an Internet search, .

    The first task in planning an upper-floor escape is taking the time to look out of each window and see where it leads you. Sometimes a straight drop is best for hanging a ladder on and heading out. Other windows will drop you to a lower roof, where you can wait for another ladder from outside the home to reach you. You may have a soft landing on grass, or a hard landing on concrete to think about. The severity of the situation will dictate what level of risk you are willing to take, but you should know your options before the situation arises.

    Escape ladders usually come in a box that will easily slide under a bed or in a closet. When needed, you just slide it out and place it near the window. Open the window, as you have determined by now that a door escape from the room is not feasible due to heat, smoke and fire conditions. Make sure the hanger will fit in the window for which it is intended. They usually have a “J”-shaped hook, which hangs over the window ledge. The rungs go outside, and may have to be “unhooked,” usually by pulling a Velcro strap to deploy. Practice hanging and climbing down from the lowest floor in your home.

    Once you decide on a room to store the escape ladder in, make sure all people who normally sleep on that floor of the home know where it is. If the stairs leading down are blocked due to the fire, head into the room with the escape ladder and close the door behind you. Deploy it out the window and begin climbing down. Have a stronger person go down first, who can then assist others. Have the next strongest wait for last and help others onto the ladder.

    The portable escape ladder is one part of a family home escape plan. Other parts include having plenty of working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms, which are tested monthly. Have a predetermined outside meeting place where family members will meet in case of fire. Go over the escape plan, including feeling any door before opening it, crawling low under smoke and knowing two ways out of every room in the home. As always, feel free to call or stop by if you need any assistance with your escape plan.

    Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.


    Oct 10, 2011

    The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 is the impetus for Fire Prevention Week. The fire started in downtown Chicago, near the famous O'Leary barn. The fire spread quickly after a long, hot and dry summer. The city had grown quickly, and the construction type reflected that. The structures were made of wood, as were the sidewalks and the streets. The fire burned for three days and destroyed 3.5 square miles of downtown Chicago, left more than 100,000 people homeless and killed approximately 300 citizens.

    Each year, a theme is selected for Fire Prevention Week. The theme for 2011 is “It's Fire Prevention Week - Practice Your Escape Plan,” which reminds us that many people say they have a fire escape plan, but very few practice the plan with their families.

    In 2009, U.S. fire departments responded to 1.4 million fires and 25 percent of these were home fires. Home fires killed 3,010 people that year - roughly eight people every day. While it is estimated that 96 percent of U.S. homes have smoke alarms, about one-fifth of them are not working, usually due to dead or missing batteries. Similarly, a very small percent - 23 to be exact - actually have developed and practiced a home fire escape plan. Take the few minutes needed to make a map of your home, draw in the rooms, label them and mark in the doors and windows. Check smoke alarms and mark them on the plan, as well as your carbon monoxide alarms. Also, write down where you keep your family first-aid kit and disaster kit. Then practice the plan with your family and meet up at the predetermined family meeting place.

    It is important to be prepared to escape from a fire if one occurs, but it is equally important to prevent fires from happening in the first place. Take steps to avoid fires by making sure your home and activities that take place there are as safe as possible. The leading causes of home fires are cooking, heating, electrical equipment and intentionally set fires.

    Take a few minutes out of your day to make your family more fire-safe. You will learn a little, teach a little and have a good time in the process. You will also be passing down valuable fire safety lessons to the next generation. As always, if you have any questions about the home escape plan, stop by any Livonia fire station for help.

    Be sure to visit us to help kick off Fire Prevention Week by attending our Open House on Saturday, Oct. 15, at fire station No. 3, located off Seven Mile Road at Wayne, at the entrance to Bicentennial Park. The hours are from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., and you can greet your Livonia firefighters, see their full protective equipment, watch some fire demonstrations, learn and have fun all at the same time. Hope to see you there!

    Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.


    Sep 30, 2011

    Often times overlooked, the home fire safety alarm system is not complete until you have added carbon monoxide alarms to the plan. In addition to the numbers of carbon monoxide poisonings in the home, there are also many treated for the poison's flu-like symptoms.

    Often termed a “silent killer” because you can't see, smell or taste it, carbon monoxide does its work throughout homes in America. The flu-like symptoms usually hit the entire family if a leak is in the home, and it can even lead to a sleepy, uncaring attitude in higher concentrations. The colorless and odorless gas can cause brain damage and even death if left unchecked.

    Carbon monoxide is the byproduct of incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, such as the natural gas that you may use to heat your home, dry your clothes, cook your food and warm up your water through the hot water heater. Normally, these gases are vented outside and exhausted properly, but a leak or lack of maintenance may be a recipe for tragedy.

    A recent survey of people who have installed carbon monoxide alarms found that 15 percent of them believed that the alarm lasts forever, whereas they typically last for just under 10 years. An additional 18 percent believed that carbon monoxide alarms are only needed for those families that have a gas-fueled furnace, and another 44 percent did not have their heating systems serviced annually.

    The good news is that an annual inspection is easy to schedule, and is typically done prior to the heating season in the fall of each year. Additionally, carbon monoxide alarms are readily available, fairly inexpensive and are easy to install in your homes. Some alarms mount on the ceiling of your home, while others plug in to electrical outlets. It doesn't matter which you choose as carbon monoxide weighs about the same as the air in your home. There are alarms that have both smoke and carbon monoxide sensors in them, and they do cost a bit more. If you have purchased one of these units, make sure you explain it to your family so they understand it and are ready to respond.

    After the installation, the units should be tested monthly and the batteries should be replaced annually. As with smoke alarms, they should be discarded after about 10 years and replaced with a new unit. Technology changes and the older parts have often reached their expected use and are ready to be retired.

    In the fire service, we pride ourselves on being ready to respond on a moment's notice. To give your family the extra time they need to escape from a dangerous situation, install and maintain smoke and carbon monoxide alarms throughout your homes. Make sure you test all alarms in your home on a monthly basis and change batteries annually.

    Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.


    Sep 04, 2011

    I am blessed and cursed to find out about the causes of fatal fires in our country. Any person can do this, but it is my job to study them and report the lessons back to the citizens in an effort to better protect them. Most of them are needless deaths that could easily have been prevented; about 3,000 U.S. citizens die each year in fires. They usually die in small numbers, which doesn't tend to raise too much public interest. Unless you happen to be me.

    Recently, a 57-year-old man died when he was overcome with smoke in his home. Investigators determined that the fire began when he fell asleep while smoking. His body was found at the end of a sofa, next to his slippers, a blanket, an ashtray and plenty of cigarettes. There was also evidence of alcohol consumption, possibly affecting his behavior.

    In 2008, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 114,800 smoking-material fires similar to this one. These fires resulted in an estimated 680 civilian fire deaths, more than 1,500 injuries and $737 million in direct property damage. Not surprisingly, mattresses and bedding and upholstered furniture are the items most commonly ignited in these fires. If you smoke in the home, use a large ashtray that will hold the cigarette even if you light it and forget about it. Never smoke in bed or when you are taking medications that will make you sleepy.

    In Massachusetts, a 71-year-old woman and her 72-year-old husband died of smoke inhalation due to a fire in their oven. The oven was used for storage, and it was inadvertently turned on before the items were removed. The woman died at the scene, and her husband died later after being admitted to the hospital.

    There are many things that enter homes, and many different places they can be put. They definitely should not be placed in heat sources, or within three feet of potential ignition sources such as oven, stoves, furnaces, portable space heaters and fireplaces.

    In Washington, a 59-year-old man died as a result of injuries he sustained escaping from a fire in his home. The fire started in the living room, where an extension cord was run under a carpet. The cord lost its insulating cover after years of the friction of walking over it in a high-traffic area. The heat from the cord ignited the rug and flooring before spreading from there.

    Extension cords are meant for a temporary use, powering an item that should be used for a limited time. They should never be used as permanent wiring, run under carpets or rugs and hung over nails or hooks. If you need more outlets, contact an electrician.

    Most people are complacent about fire hazards in their home. They get caught up in the daily routines they have established and take little time to consider fire safety. Learn the lessons of these folks, and practice fire safety in your home.

    Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.

    By Tom Kiurski

    Guest Columnist


    Aug 26, 2011

    Recently, researchers from the National Standards and Technology have been testing fire safety in college dormitories. Their research indicates that the correct combination of automatic fire sprinkler systems, smoke alarms and closed doors provide enough time and conditions that are safe enough for firefighters to perform their job effectively without undue hazard.

    The experiments were conducted in a university dormitory scheduled to be demolished at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark. The building will be replaced with a high-rise building on the campus.

    Fires create many potentially fatal hazards, including high heat, lack of visibility and the accumulation of toxic gases. Those gases may be visible or invisible, and are hard to detect when the students might be asleep. In addition to monitoring thermal conditions and visibility, the researchers also measured the oxygen, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide levels to determine the chances of survival on the fire floor.

    The rooms used in the experiment were furnished as typical dorm rooms are, including clothing, books and furniture. Smoke alarms were installed in the rooms and the hallways. The smoke alarms activated within 30 seconds of ignition of a trash container in a dorm room, which was the cause of the test fires.

    The first two experiments were conducted with the dorm room door and windows closed. In both test fires, the hallway remained tenable, which would allow other students to exit safely past the room of origin. Other fire experiment rooms had automatic fire sprinklers installed. The automatic fire sprinklers activated within two minutes after ignition. In these experiments, tenability was maintained in the dorm room and in the hallway.

    Other experiments were conducted with the door of the dorm room left open and no fire sprinkler suppression system. In these fires, the tenability limits were exceeded in the dorm room and the hallway quickly.

    These experiments show the value of having numerous fire protection features in a building working together. While I know that not all college dormitories are sprinkler-protected, I am hopeful that the colleges of today are certainly making efforts to get there.

    One piece of the puzzle that all college dorm rooms do have is the ability to compartment the fire. This includes sleeping with bedroom doors closed, and keeping doors to the hallway closed at all times. This helps to block the spread of fire into the hallway, making it untenable early on in the fire.

    Your children have a lot on their minds when they go away to college. Their life experiences may not have included surviving a fire situation. They may still feel the invincibility that many teenagers feel. Make sure you are there to help give your children the best chances of success and survival in their futures.

    Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.


    Aug 19, 2011

    I have been stressing fire and life safety through this column for quite some time now. With apologies to the caveman commercials, I titled this column “Fire safety - It's so simple a child can do it!” I do not mean to imply that a comprehensive safety plan is an easy thing to do. What I have found is three great examples of three very young children who acted appropriately in a stressful situation and are heroes - at least in my book!

    My first hero is a 12-year-old boy named Kenneth, who was at home in his bedroom one afternoon. His baby sister was napping in her bedroom and his mother left some food cooking on the stove and stepped out of the house. (The mother is NOT a hero of mine.) Kenneth heard the smoke alarm sound, as smoke was filling his house. He turned off the burner to the stove, grabbed his younger sister and ran to their neighbor's house. He was outside the home, tears filling his eyes, as fire units arrived at the smoke-filled house. He had to be thinking he lost his mother, but she showed up a bit later and the family was reunited.

    My second hero is a 9-year-old boy named Tristin, who was at his grandmother's house with his 2-year-old sister. When he couldn't find her, he checked outside in the pool. After seeing his sister in the pool, he pulled her out and began performing CPR to try to save his sister's life. After a few minutes, she began to breathe on her own. Young Tristin told responding firefighter/paramedics that he learned the CPR techniques from a television show.

    My final hero is from New Hampshire, and this incident just happened in July. Ten-year-old Dylan was playing at home when he noticed his younger brother's lips start to turn blue and he appeared to be in great distress. He couldn't breathe because he had put a marble in his mouth, which blocked his airway. Dylan's father is a firefighter, and he taught Dylan how to perform the Heimlich maneuver. Without delay, he jumped into action and the marble came shooting out of his brother's mouth.

    I am quite sure there are many youngsters out there who would also make my hero list should the opportunity arise. We need to take the time to go over emergency actions with our families when the opportunity arises. It may be after a television show or movie that shows an emergency situation, a real- life family emergency or an emergency that strikes a family member or friend. It may not even be related to a real emergency; it can be practiced because it is important. Plan ahead what numbers need to be called to initiate the emergency services here in Livonia, how to contact family and neighbors to get immediate needs taken care of, and where you can sign up for a first aid and/or CPR class.

    Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.


    Aug 13, 2011