Preventing Fires in Long Island

By: Richard McNeal

The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) reported nearly 45,000 fire events in 2008. Just this past March, there were over 4,000 fires citywide. We all love and appreciate our local firefighters for their dedication, strength, and protection. They keep us safe and remind us of the precautions that need to be taken to reduce the risk of fires.

Consider the following advice on fire prevention and escape for New Yorkers based on information from the FDNY and other fire prevention specialists:

Fire Prevention
Reducing the potential for a fire breaking out in your apartment or home is relatively simple. It just takes paying attention to the dangers that pop up around the house along with some simple planning. To prevent a fire from starting in your home:

- Install smoke detectors on each level of your home and test each device once a month. Smoke detectors should have the batteries checked and/or changed twice a year.
- Keep portable space heaters at least three feet from anything flammable and never leave them on when you are not at home.
- Keep matches and lighters out of reach of children.
- Blow out candles when leaving a room and when going to bed.
- Never smoke in bed. Put out cigarettes thoroughly in an ash tray.
- Keep a small portable dry chemical fire extinguisher readily available, especially in the kitchen.
- Make sure that your apartment door is a tight-fitting, self-closing door that complies with the fire code.
- Make sure your building's exit stair doors are self-closing and unlock from both sides.

Fire Escape Plans
All families and households should have an escape plan in case of an emergency. When creating an exit plan consider the following:

- Practice how to exit your home or building based on different scenarios (fire in the home, in the hallway, etc.)
- Know your floor and other floors you may visit, taking note of where exits are located.
- Stay inside rather than entering smoke-filled hallways if the fire is on a floor below your apartment
- Agree on a meeting location outside the structure that is away from any potential danger.
- When exiting, move quickly but safely to avoid injury upon evacuation.
- Stay low to the floor as heat and smoke rise.
- Use the stairs and avoid elevators.
- Alert others on the floor by knocking on doors. Activate the fire alarm.

Damage Control
The FDNY advises home owners and renters to have insurance to help with the costs of potential loss of your home or belongings. In order to minimize potential fire damage and the loss of particularly important documents or personal belongings, it is also recommended that you have a fire safe box in which to store any items of value like identification, passports, birth certificates, etc.

The unfortunate reality is that fires are an all-too-common occurrence in New York City and surrounding areas. It is important that citizens listen to the experts who deal with fire damage each day and take the necessary precaution to ensure fires don't destroy their cherished belongings or loved ones.

~Richard McNeal, 2009

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