Fire Safety Tips from the Pawlet Volunteer Fire Department

Three Easy Things You Can Do Right Now to Make You and Your Family Safer

1) Check the age of your smoke detector and change the battery. Smoke detectors cut your risk of dying in a fire in half. Got 'em? Great! Take a minute to make sure it's working. Check the batteries by pusing the "test" button, and check the date on the back: detectors older than 10 years have exceeded their service life and must be replaced. Got one sitting on your refrigerator that you took the batteries out of because it kept going off while you were cooking? Try moving it to a better location instead of disabling it. Smoke alarms save lives, and are required in all residences by Vermont law.

2) Conduct an exit drill. If you have children in your household, it's important that you prepare them for a fire the same way they do it at school: by having fire drills. Gather your family together and choose a meeting place a safe distance from the home (a tree, the mailbox, a swingset, a neighbor's porch, etc.) to go to when the alarm sounds. Then press the "test" button on the detector and give it a try. Having a meeting place allows parents to account for their children, who might otherwise scatter or hide in fear. Drills like this have been creditied with saving many young lives, including some right here in our community. Reinforce to all members of your family that once you exit a burning home, you do not go back in, under any circumstances.

3) Make sure your house number is visible from the road. In our community where many people get their mail at the post office, many people pay no mind to their street address. In fact, a startling number of people in Pawlet don't even know their street addresses. But when you call 911, your street address is usually all responders have to go by to find you. Your address should be posted in big, bold numbers in such a way that it makes it clear which house is yours. If your house is set back, post a marker at the end of your driveway. If you share a driveway with neighbors, post a marker at the road and a second one at the fork. The next time you pull up, put yourself in a firefighter's boots: knowing just the street address, could you find your house from a moving fire truck?

More Pawlet Fire Safety Tips

 

Install and Maintain Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detectors

A carbon monoxide detector is often your only warning that this deadly poison is present. CO detectors are inexpensive devices that save lives. They should be installed outside each bedroom area of your home, and inside any bedroom that contains a fuel-burning appliance (such as a wood, wood pellet, propane, or kerosene heater or stove). CO dectors have a limited lifespan. Most stop working in 3-5 years, depending on the manufacturer. Some alert you when they die, others give no warning that they are no longer working. Check the back to see how old it is, and check with the manufacturer to know if it is still working or not.

Dispose of Fireplace Ashes Properly

Fireplace and wood stove ashes can remain hot for up to four days and often deceptively seem "out," leading to fires. The safe way to handle ashes is easy: shovel them into a metal container, such as a small trash can, with a tight-fitting lid. Place the container on the ground outside, away from any structures, and allow the ashes to cool for at least four days before dumping them. Never attempt to clean stove or fireplace ashes with a vacuum.

Inspect Your Chimney and Venting

It is important to inspect the venting of your heating appliance regularly. Check for cracks, obstructions, or other damage. Clean out your ash pan and be on the lookout for bits of masonry or ceramic in the debris you remove, as this can indicate internal damage to the chimney. Last but not least, it is important to check regularly for creosete accumulation. This tar-like substance causes fires in the venting, and it must be removed. This simple, inexpensive maintenece can prevent a chimney fire, a very dangerous situation that we see every winter here in Pawlet. If you're not sure how to inspect or clean your chimney, call a licensed chimney sweep for help.

Heating with oil or gas? It is still important to remove soot accumulation and inspect vent piping. Animals and insects making a home in your chimney in the summer can have dangerous consequences once the heating applicance is turned back on in the autumn.

Use Care When Heating with Portable Heaters

Portable heaters are convenient, but they can cause fires and carbon monoxide poisoning if used improperly. Always keep any portable heater away from combustibles, and never leave them unattended, especially when sleeping. Kerosene heaters should be fueled only when they have cooled off completely, and only 1-K kerosene should be used– any amount of gasoline can cause an explosion, so never use your kero containers for gas. Portable heaters can be perfectly safe to use indoors, but you must follow all instructions and maintain them properly. Any fuel-burning stove gives off some carbon monoxide, so a working CO detector is a must!

Have a Pond? Consider Installing a Dry Hydrant

A dry hydrant is a non-pressurized pipe system installed beside a body of water. It allows the fire department to draft water quickly and reliably, year round. If you have a pond of another body of water on your property, adding a dry hydrant can make all the difference in the event of a fire, saving firefighters precious minutes, and in turn saving property and even lives. It can also lower your insurance premiums, and enhances the safety of your neighbors as well. A dry hydrant on your land is good for your safety, good for your wallet, and good for your community.

If you have a pond or other body of water that you think may be a good candidate for a dry hydrant, contact us. The fire department can help you determine if your site is suitable and may be able to help with labor involved in the installation. In certain cases grant funding may be available to help cover the costs of installing a dry hydrant.

Seek a Permit for Controlled Burns and Bonfires

Controlled burns and other large intentionally-lit outdoor fires are a common reason why the Pawlet Fire Department is dispatched. Even on your own land, law requires you to seek a burn permit when there is no snow on the ground for any fire involving flames larger than 18" high. The permit is free and is issued at the discretion of the forest fire warden. This process is designed to help prevent accidental wildfires and needless emergency response-- passing motorists often mistake controlled fires for wildfires and call 911. Click here to learn more about Vermont's laws on burn permits and when they are required. Need a burn permit? Please contact Dale Decker, Pawlet's forest fire warden.

Keep Driveways and Private Roads Plowed

In the wintertime, the PVFD relies on homeowners to keep access to their home open. We go to great lengths to make sure our trucks can handle some snow, but the simple truth is that if we can't get a fire truck up your driveway, we can't fight a fire at your home. Even if you do not live in your home year-round, maintaining access 365 days a year gives us a fighting chance of saving your property in the event of fire. Plowing out access to ponds, hydrants, and other water supplies is a tremendous help to us, and a great service to your neighbors.