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May 6, 2013

In our opinion: Take steps to prevent fire tragedy

The Daily Star

---- — Oftentimes it takes a tragedy to remind us to do the little things that may save our lives.

A house fire in Afton on April 27 claimed the lives of three residents — 11-year-old Craig A. Gohl, his father, Nathan J. Herbert, 45, and Herbert’s girlfriend, Anna M. Ebert, 54.

Autopsies revealed they died of asphyxiation and carbon monoxide poisoning from a fire that started with smoking materials in a couch in the living room. 

The fire investigation found the house didn’t have a smoke detector. 

According to the National Fire Protection Association, almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in properties without working smoke alarms.

Chenango County fire coordinator Matthew Beckwith urged residents who cannot afford smoke detectors to contact their local fire chief, who will contact the county for assistance.

“We can provide them with smoke detectors,” Beckwith said. “Fires are bad enough but much worse when there is a loss of life.”

That’s why we should all do what we can to help prevent another tragedy.

Make sure your home has working detectors. Under state code, landlords are required to provide smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. 

At least one smoke detector should be installed on or near the ceiling of each level of a home, and many recommend placing a smoke detector outside each bedroom.

Smoke detectors should be tested monthly and batteries should be replaced at least once per year. Detectors should be replaced every eight to 10 years.

Carbon monoxide detectors should be placed in a central location on each level of a home, on a wall at least 15 feet away from carbon monoxide-emitting appliances.

Detection is just one step to help prevent tragedy. Planning and knowing what to do in case of an emergency is another.

If a carbon monoxide detector is set off, leave the home immediately and dial 911.

All families should have an escape plan in case of fire, including knowing where to meet outside. Every room should have two ways to exit it and all windows and doors should open properly. Practice your escape plan twice a year. During drills, make sure to set the alarm off so children know what it sounds like.

Children also need to be taught what to do in case of fire. They need to know what firefighters look like and sound like when they are in gear, as they can be scary to young children. And while fires are frightening, make sure children know they should never hide if a fire breaks out.

About 3,500 people in the U.S. die every year in home fires, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Take a few moments now to do what you can to make sure you and your loved ones are not part of that statistic.