Fire Safety Tips

About 4,000 people lose their lives and 20,000 are injured in fires each year.  Cooking related fires are the leading cause of home fires and injuries. The tips below may prevent your family from experiencing a fire tragedy.

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Learn how to help protect your family from disaster with these tips.
Fire Prevention Basics

About 4,000 people lose their lives and 20,000 are injured in fires each year.  Cooking related fires are the leading cause of home fires and injuries. The tips below may prevent your family from experiencing a fire tragedy.

  1. Are your smoke detectors less than 10 years old with good, working batteries?  Making sure you have good batteries in your smoke detectors is the first way to ensure that they will operate correctly when you need them.  And if your smoke detectors are more than 10 years old, consider purchasing new ones.  Newer smoke detectors have updates and are better functioning than many that were sold 10 years ago.  No one should sleep without several working smoke detectors throughout their home.
  2. Install a smoke detector in every level of your home, outside and inside every room used for sleeping.  Test your detector at least once a month and change the battery at least once a year.
  3. Are space heaters 3 feet away from walls, sofa, and anything else that burns?
  4. Always use candles with care. There should be a 3 feet diameter of open space around candles. Never place near draperies or other flammable objects. Never leave children alone with candles and always blow them out when you leave the room.
  5. Are extension cords working properly? Don't run them under carpets, or furniture legs.  Inspect all connections regularly for heat or damage.
  6. Encourage smokers to smoke outside. Never smoke in bed.
  7. Keep all lighters and matches up high and secured away from children.
  8. If you do smoke inside, make sure ashtrays are deep and sturdy and are emptied regularly only after assuring everything in them is completely extinguished.
  9. Keep all flammables including lawn mowers and motorcycles away from water heaters and furnaces. (Danger of leaking gas/fumes)
  10. Make sure your storage areas are clean.  There should be no oily rags or used paint rags stored inside your home, garage or shed.  
  11. Never leave cooking unattended.  A serious fire can start in seconds.  If you are tired or are under the influence of medication or alcohol avoid cooking.  Many people have been overcome when they planned to sit down for just a second and fell asleep.
  12. Don’t cook with loose fitting clothing.
  13. Clean cooking surfaces regularly to prevent grease buildup and make sure countertop are clear of combustibles at least 3 feet away.
  14. If fire breaks out while cooking on the stove, simply cover the pan with a lid or cookie sheet to smother the flames.  If possible, shut off the burner and stand back.  If you have an extinguisher, be careful that you don’t splash the burning liquid.
  15. If fire breaks out in the oven never open the oven door. Ovens are designed to hold a large amount of heat.  Simply turn off the oven and dial  911 for the fire department.
  16. Never use your stove to heat your home.
  17. Double check your kitchen before going to sleep or leaving the house.
  18. When in doubt, just get out.  The most important safety message is that fire can grow very quickly blocking your exits.  Get your family out of the house immediately!  Then Dial 911 from a neighbor's telephone.
Does Your Home Have Enough Fire Detectors?

Many of us know by now that our families stand a much better chance of surviving a fire when there are working smoke detectors properly installed in our homes. Though we here at the fire department still occasionally see homes without detectors, it is getting much rarer than a decade ago. But we sometimes still see detectors without batteries or detectors that are outdated and should be replaced. Sometimes also, due to improper placement, detectors are triggered when cooking or because of shower steam. These detectors often have their batteries removed, which should never be done. The problem can be easily remedied by simply moving these smoke detectors to alternate locations.

Another well known and extremely important issue is that batteries should be tested regularly and changed every 6-12 months. Keep in mind as you are changing batteries that newer detectors may be equipped with Lithium batteries that last the full ten years without replacement. Something that is not so well known is that detectors are only recommended for 10 years of use. After that period of time they lose substantial ability to sense smoke and sound an alarm.

Finally, one detector is not enough to provide safety. Since we never really know where the fire will start its important that we have detectors located in several areas of the home. The International Property Maintenance Code requires a detector be located outside each bedroom and on every level of your home. This means that you must have one in the basement and finished attics as well. A recent addition to the code also requires detectors be placed inside each sleeping room as well. Many fire deaths have occurred inside bedrooms with closed doors, which prohibits the detector in the hallway from sending an alarm. If you have questions regarding the safe installation, operation or use of smoke detectors, please don’t hesitate to contact the City of Niles Fire Department at 683-0160.

Practice Your Family's Emergency Escape Plan!

October is Fire Prevention month and is designed to remind residents that fire safety starts with them. But it is important to practice your Emergency Escape Plan with your family throughout the year.  Fire departments in the United States responded to an estimated 1.6 million fires during 2006. These fires caused 3,245 civilian deaths and 16,400 injuries, according to a recently released National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) report. Installing and maintaining smoke detectors, limiting clutter around cooking areas and routine attention to electrical cords, water heaters, furnaces and other mechanical devices as well as proper disposal of smoking materials, and using candles safely are just a few ways to limit your families’ risk to home fires.

The month of October is a great time to remember to talk with your family to make sure your home and loved ones are safe. The best way to prevent tragedies is to practice escape drills from various locations within your home. Start with working on the escape routes from bedrooms. Discuss with children two ways out of each room and where they should go once they get outside a smoke filled structure. We call this spot a meeting place. It could be a tree in the front yard, the end of the driveway, or the mail box. The most important aspect of picking a spot is that everyone is clear on where it is. We ask children in schools, "if you get out and are in the back yard and mom or dad are in the front yard, where do they think you are?" Everyone needs to exit the structure and go to the meeting place. The final part is to have the kids' lie down, push the detector to start the drill, and discuss with the children what they might do if a way out happens to be blocked.

Firefighters from the City of Niles and Niles Charter Twp Fire Departments work together every year to put out fires before they start. Firefighters spend the month of October in the schools providing safety education as well as countless hours at the Niles Apple Festival. The most successful education though occurs at home. Parents need to talk about fire safety at home to assure safety. Residents with questions can call their respective fire departments. We are always available to assist you in protecting your family.

In Case of Disaster, Protect Your Pets

Everyone can benefit from having a household evacuation plan in place.  It is the best way to protect your family in case of disaster, whether it’s a large scale natural catastrophe or an emergency that causes you to leave your home temporarily.   Every disaster plan must include your companion animals.  These are some helpful hints to use when developing your plan:

1.  Keep your animal’s ID current. Consider including an alternate phone number on their tags.
2.  Have current color photographs of your pets to help identify them if they become separated.
3.  If disaster is imminent make sure you get your pets under cover as soon as possible.
Keep on hand disaster supplies for your pet:

  • Portable carrier
  • Food / Water bowl
  • Medications if needed
  • Health records
  • Leashes

If you evacuate take your pet with you if possible.  Determine before an emergency locations that can accommodate your pet.  If you must leave your pet leave plenty of water in containers not easily knocked over and consider leaving a faucet dripping in the bathtub.  Try to leave enough food to last 3 days and if you expect flooding provide access to elevated spaces if possible.  Finally put a note on the front door advising what pets and where they are located.  Also include your contact information in case they are found.  For tips or questions please call Berrien County Animal Control at 269-471-7531.

Prevent Cooking Fires

Cooking equipment is involved in more than 100,000 reported home fires annually so the Niles City Fire Department asks you to pay attention when you cook.  Most cooking fires occur because of unattended cooking.  Stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling, broiling, or boiling food.  If you must leave turn off the heat source.  When simmering, baking or roasting food, make sure you check it regularly.  A good way to do that is to use a timer to remind yourself to check the stove.  Never leave dish towels, pot holders or oven mitts on your stove.

Grease fires can occur quickly.  Make sure you have an oven mitt and a lid near by.  When a fire occurs avoid the impulse to take the pan outside -- this can lead to serious burns and an uncontrollable fire.  Simply place a lid onto the pan and turn off the burner.  If it is safe, sliding the pan to another cool burner is also acceptable.  Never pour water on a grease fire.  If you don't have a lid use a fire extinguisher to put the fire out.  For many grease fires you can sprinkle baking soda on the fire to put it out.  It’s a good idea to always keep baking soda stored near your stove.  Remember the most important thing in these situations is that everyone makes it safely out of the home before a fire becomes uncontrollable.  If the fire is too big -- get your family out of the house fast and call 911 from a neighbor's home.

Children can be easily burned from spills and other mishaps occurring near stoves while cooking.  Make these Safety Tips second nature in your household:  Always turn pot, pan and skillet handles inward and when possible ensure the handles are facing the rear of the stove. . . this reduces the chance of accidental scalding of not only curious children but also anyone else who comes near the stove.  Teach children to stay at least 3 feet away from the stove at all times when you are cooking.  This will help ensure that children will not be in the wrong place at the wrong time to receive unnecessary, painful and sometimes life changing burn injuries.  When your child is old enough to take on directly supervised small tasks at the stove. . . TEACH SAFETY FIRST!

Have you ever been broiling and noticed a fire in your oven?  The first reaction is to open the door to extinguish the fire.  Ovens are designed to hold heat.  The best approach is to leave the door shut, turn off the heat, and call 911.

Finally, standard microwave ovens typically require 750 to 1100 watts of electricity to operate.  Make sure that they are plugged into an outlet and never into an extension cord to prevent overloading the circuit and causing a fire.  Use only microwave safe containers.  Allow food to cool for a few minutes before removing it from the unit.

Ensure Easy Access to Alleys
Please help us to keep our alleys clear. If your property abuts an alley you know the added work it takes to keep this area of the yard under control. The area approximately 3 feet on either side of the tire track must be kept clear from brush, bushes, and high weeds so that vehicles can easily pass. These alleys serve as a right of way for utility workers as well as sole means for many residents to get to their garages and rear yards. Enforcement officers and street workers have seen a real trend towards owners failing to maintain the access to the alleys. This not only makes it difficult for city workers to get close to the equipment that they need to service, it can also cause damage to your or your neighbor's vehicles. Though many of our residents keep their alleys clear it only takes one property owner to cause a restriction. If you live on an alley, please take a second to make sure that it is properly maintained.
Fire Education Program

As you may know, Niles City and Niles Charter Township Firefighters work together to ensure that all children in our community receive fire prevention and other safety information each year.  Both fire department’s firefighters volunteer countless hours of their own spare time in addition to their work hours and they come together as one team to reach their goal of making sure every child understands the importance of fire prevention.  By combining their resources these dedicated firefighters have developed outstanding fire prevention programs for our community.

The Berrien County Youth Fair has served as the springboard for each year’s round of teaching as the children's safety education show is presented on each Wednesday of fair week.  Flash, the little electronic fire engine and Flicker, the little boy puppet who speaks with Lt. Dan, delight the children as they learn.  The troop will be joined by Murph and Poky the Clown, who also present their traditional show daily throughout the Niles Apple Festival.

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These festival events are important to fire prevention and safety educators as in many cases it is the only time that they will be able to influence parents to practice fire and life safety procedures with their children in their everyday lives.

Niles City and Niles Charter Township firefighters have been performing and presenting educational services to the community for almost 20 years in both the Niles and Brandywine School systems.  In addition to fire safety messages the group teaches head injury prevention, resistance to drugs, traffic safety, 911 and much more.

Emergency Medical Form

When we respond to emergency medical calls we are required to gather critical medical information that will later be used by emergency room doctors to help diagnosis the patient's problem. The names and amount or dosage of the medications you are currently taking is essential information that may help save your life. In many cases you may not be able to answer medical questions because you are incapacitated. The time it takes to collect this information could mean the difference between life and death. One simple way to help with this problem is to cut out the Emergency Medical Form available here. Complete the form and secure it on your refrigerator (you may also want to carry a copy with you). If privacy is a concern, simply place the completed form in an envelope and label it Emergency Medical Information. Emergency Medical Technicians and First Responders who are called to your home will look for this information on your refrigerator. This simple action will save valuable time if you need medical assistance. For questions or assistance you can call the Southwestern Michigan Community Ambulance Service at 684-2170 or the Niles Fire Department at 683-0160.