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Think Safety First

In addition to its public education programs, the Fire Prevention Bureau provides up-to-date and relevant information to the community about potential fire hazards and best methods for prevention.

Safety Away from Home

Not all fires occur at home. While a majority of fires do occur in the home, some of the largest and most devastating fires occur in places of public assembly such as hotels, theatres and nightclubs. These places can become dangerous for many reasons including overcrowding, blocked exits, flammable decorations, lack of sprinklers, and many more.

Some of the steps you can take to practice safety away from the home includingFDLadderTruck

  • Refuse to sleep, eat or attend events in establishments and hotels that don't have fire sprinklers.
  • Always locate the nearest fire exits when you enter so you can quickly find your way out in an emergency.
  • Locate the nearest fire extinguisher and alarm pull station.
  • If the event is overcrowded, leave and contact the local fire department to report it.
  • Contact the fire department if you find locked or blocked fire exits or other fire code violations.
  • Quickly and calmly leave the building immediately in the event of an emergency.
  • Never use the elevator in a fire, it may stop and trap you on the floor where the fire is, always use the stairways.
  • If trapped by fire in a hotel or office, keep the door closed, stuff wet towels around door cracks and HVAC vents. Use the phone to contact 911 and report your location to the fire department.

Home Construction

Homes under construction have many hazards that can result in a fire. The causes of these fires include but are not limited to:

1. Poor housekeeping by the contractors.
2. The use of stains and varnishes that can spontaneously ignite if rags and materials are not disposed of properly.
3. Careless electrical wiring.
4. Unmonitored temporary heating units.
5. “Hot Works” – The use of various torches by tradesman without adequate protection for surrounding combustibles.

All construction sites should have fire extinguishers properly mounted in a conspicuous location for easy access. A safety inspection should be done daily to ensure hazards do not exist that can result in a fire or injury.

Smoke Alarms

January 2013: Over the past few months, there has been some controversy over the different types of smoke alarms for homes and condominiums. Currently there are two different kinds of technology being used for smoke alarms; ionization and photoelectric. Ionization smoke alarms are the most common devices being used in homes due to their inexpensive cost (under $10 each). However, recent studies have found that ionization technology may not respond fast enough to fires that involve modern furniture. Today’s furniture uses foam and synthetic material while legacy furniture used more wood and natural fibers. The industry suggests that smoldering fires are best detected with photoelectric alarms, while fast burning fires are better detected with ionization alarms. For years, the fire service has recommended that every home have both types of smoke alarms.

If you have battery operated smoke alarms in your home, this might be a good time to consider replacing them. If they are older than 10 years or have passed the manufacturer’s recommended life span, they should be replaced regardless. In either case, you might want to consider replacing your smoke alarms with newer technology. Today, you can purchase a dual-sensor smoke alarm that combines the ionization and photoelectric technology into one unit. These smoke alarms can be purchased for under $20 at a local home improvement center.

Smoke alarms are an inexpensive insurance policy you can purchase to protect yourself and your family. Make sure you test your alarm every month and always have fresh batteries that are changed every year. If you wait for the low battery indicator to begin chirping it could be too late; you might be on vacation and miss the warning resulting in a non-functioning device. It is recommended to have a minimum of one alarm on each floor, one within 15 feet of all sleeping areas and one in each bedroom (bedroom smoke alarms are recommended because many people sleep with their bedroom doors closed preventing the alarm outside the room from activating). In past years, the problem was homes without smoke alarms. Today, the problem is homes with smoke alarms that do not work. Be sure to check that you have working smoke alarms today!

The Winnetka Fire Department recommends interested residents visit the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board for further information on fire sprinklers at:

Burn Prevention

Fires and burns are the third leading cause of unintentional death among children ages 1 to 14. Each year, approximately 488 children ages 14 and under die in residential fires and another 116,600 are injured by fire- or burn-related incidents. Children ages 4 and under are at much higher risk for these injuries than adults.

Two out of three times when a child is injured or dies from a residential fire, a smoke alarm is not working or not present. Having a working smoke alarm is very important. It reduces the chance of dying in a fire by nearly half. That is why it is important to practice fire safety in the home and take all necessary precautionary steps to ensure the safety of your family.

Fall Prevention

Falls among older adults are a big problem, as they can be a threat to the health and independence of adults aged 65 and older. Falls are devastating, deadly, and costly. Fortunately, many falls are preventable. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • One out of three adults age 65 and older falls each year but less than half talk to their healthcare providers about it.
  • Among older adults (those 65 or older), falls are the leading cause of injury death. They are also the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma.
  • In 2008, over 19,700 older adults died from unintentional fall injuries.
  • In 2009, 2.2 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults were treated in emergency departments and more than 581,000 of these patients were hospitalized.

Falling related injuries have far reaching negative effects. According to the CDC, 20 to 30% of people suffer falling related injuries that can make it difficult to get around or live independently. Also, many adults that fall develop a fear of falling and limit their activity that leads to reduced mobility and loss of physical fitness which increases their risk of falling. Tips for preventing falls (from the CDC and the University of Southern California Andrus Gerontology Center):

  • The most important thing older adults can do to help prevent falls is to exercise regularly. The exercises should focus on increasing leg strength and improving balance.
  • Older adults should review their medicines with their health care provider and identify any medications that may cause side effects or interactions such as dizziness and drowsiness.
  • Regular eye exams are important to make sure that vision is always corrected and maximized.
  • Since over half of falls happen at home, keeping areas and paths free of clutter and tripping hazards such as cords and loose rugs will help in reducing the falls.
  • Adding grab bars inside and outside of bath tubs and showers, next to toilets, adding stair railings and improving lighting will make homes safer.
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