Deputy Shawnee Fire Marshal Rob Rusk says every home should have a working smoke alarm, so it's one of many messages he hopes to get out during Fire Prevention Week, observed today through Oct. 12.
As part of the annual fire prevention week festivities, Shawnee's fire clowns, who spread lifesaving messages through songs, are visiting area elementary schools this week.
Rusk also wants to share fire prevention safety tips involving smoke detectors, fireplace safety and home heating.
"The fact is, everyone needs a smoke detector," Rusk said.
Residents are reminded to check their smoke detectors often and change the batteries at least twice each yea. A good time to remember is in the spring and fall when everyone change clocks for daylight saving time.
There should be a smoke detector on every level of a home, and most of them need to be close to sleeping areas, he said.
"Fewer people die when a smoke detector is present and it activates," he said.
Of those who lost their lives in home-related fires, Rusk said in 85 percent of cases, smoke detectors had either missing or dead batteries.
That's why it's so important to never "borrow" a smoke detector battery for another use, he said.
"That battery is for nothing but that smoke detector," he said.
Rusk suggests smoke detectors should be replaced every 10 years or when they exceed their life cycle; most detectors have a date.
The Shawnee Fire Department offers free smoke detectors to those who can't afford them, and will even install them free of charge. As part of the program, those needing a smoke detector or battery, or those wanting to donate smoke detectors or funds to purchase them for the program can call Station No. 1, 273-4282.
Another area for fire prevention education, especially going into the winter months, is fireplace safety.
Rusk said many people don't have their chimneys cleaned each year, which can cause a buildup of residue that can lead to a home fire.
"It can be combustible," he said.
He recommends a chimney sweep inspect and clean fireplaces each year.
"Before using your fireplace, make sure it's safe," he said.
Other tips include being safe when burning a fire, such as using a screen or glass to keep embers from catching carpeting on fire, and to always keep flammable materials away from the fireplace.
Rusk said additional firewood should never be stored next to the fireplace.
Page 2 of 2 - Home heating
With home heating safety, Rusk reminds residents to never use a stove to heat a home as it can give off carbon monoxide.
Carbon monoxide detectors can be expensive, Rusk said, but they are a useful item for those who have gas furnaces or appliances, he said.
Carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless and firefighters responded to numerous calls each year.
Another aspect of home heating is use of space heaters. While useful, they can be dangerous so Rusk said it's important they aren't used near anything combustible.
Space heaters should be keep three feet away from anything and should never be left on while unattended.
During fire prevention week, Rusk said it's a go time for families to get together and practice home escape drills and have communication on what they would do in case of a fire.
In addition to the fire clowns being in Shawnee area schools this week, there will be an evening performance at 6:30 p.m. Thursday night at the Heart of Oklahoma Exposition Conference Center. The public is invited to attend.
For more information about fire prevention, contact Rusk at 405-878-1676.