Structural fires are common this time of year, says Mark Meredith, M.D., assistant professor of Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine, as individuals are often scrambling to heat their homes in any way possible.
Nationally, every year approximately 116,600 children ages 14 and under are injured in residential fires, and fires and burns are the third leading cause of unintentional deaths among children ages 1 to 14.
“Prevention is always the key with children,” says Meredith. “Using things such as smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are some of the best ways to help prevent injuries and deaths.” In addition, he says, never leave children home alone with any sort of portable heater or active fire source.
Below are some home safety tips that can help curb structural fires and prevent fire-related injuries:
Heater and fireplace safety
• Unplug electric heaters when leaving the room or exiting the house.
• Never place portable heaters close to combustibles such as furniture, walls and drapes.
• Avoid overloading circuits or using multiple electrical heaters in one area.
• Portable space heaters should be turned off every time you leave a room or go to bed.
• Do not dry or store objects near the heater.
• Place screens in front of fireplaces and other heat sources.
Smoke alarm/carbon monoxide detector precautions
• Install smoke alarms on all levels in the home, including basements and attics, and near all bedrooms.
• Smoke alarms should be tested every month, and batteries should be replaced once a year.
• The entire unit should be replaced every 10 years.
• Smoke alarms should be mounted high on walls or ceilings. Ceiling mounted smoke alarms should be installed at least 4 inches away from the nearest wall. Wall mounted smoke alarms should be installed 4 to 12 inches away from the ceiling.
• Carbon monoxide detectors should be used at all times, even when operating wood stoves, fireplaces and kerosene heaters.
• Emergency preparedness equipment such as smoke detectors and fire extinguishers can be purchased at cost in the Safety Store <http://childrenshospital.vanderbilt.org/interior.php?mid=5195> at Children’s Hospital.
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Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt
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