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Emergencies can strike, despite the best precautions

By
Home Inspector with Gregory Allen Home Inspector NC 2239

Emergencies can strike, despite the best precautions. You

can prevent an emergency from becoming a catastrophe

by learning what to do. The first step during an electrical problem, water leak or

gas leak is to shut off the flow of electricity, water or gas

to your home. Every member of your household should

know how to find these shutoff valves and switches.

You should keep basic emergency supplies such as a

portable radio, a flashlight, extra batteries, a first-aid kit

and a first-aid manual on hand at all times.

These supplies will be welcomed if a natural disaster occurs. In addition, the first-aid kit

and first-aid manual are good to have on hand for household use.

Emergency Shutoff Valve & Switch Locations

Main water shutoff valves are frequently located near water meters. Your water meter is

likely outside near the street. Main water shutoff valves can also be located inside your

home beneath a floor access panel or in a basement. Floor access panels are commonly

found in closet floors. Look for a large valve in the middle of a pipe.

The main electrical disconnect should be located in or near the circuit panel box. The

circuit panel box should be located in the garage, utility room, utility closet or similar out

of the way location.

If you have natural gas service, the gas shutoff valve will likely be located on the gas

inlet pipe next to the gas meter.

Fire Precautions

Precautions and plans made today can prevent a fire-related tragedy tomorrow. Several

steps for avoiding fire risks are discussed below. What to do if a fire does strike is also

discussed.

Have A Plan Of Escape

The first step during a fire is to get everyone out of the house. Planning your escape

routes now can prevent needless loss of life during a fire.

• Map out escape routes from each room in your home with your family. Pay

particular attention to escape routes from bedrooms.

• Agree on a central area outside your house to meet after evacuation so that

everyone can be accounted for. This may be a neighbor's front door or a

neighborhood landmark. The meeting place should be a place that children or

injured people can reach without undue difficulty and yet still be safe from

danger. Meeting at the designated place can prevent a tragedy caused by not

knowing whether everyone has escaped from the building.

• Have safety ladders near windows, if ladders are needed.

• Smoke detectors are an excellent early warning device. They are your first line of

defense if a fire breaks out at night. Test your detectors on the first day of each

month. Replace the batteries in the spring and fall when you change your clocks.

• Keep stairs, doorways and hallways free from obstructions. In dense smoke, it

may be difficult to see items blocking an escape route.

Fire Extinguisher

Every kitchen should have a multipurpose fire extinguisher. Cooking is a leading cause of

fire. If a fire breaks out in the kitchen, you will want an extinguisher close at hand. If

there is a fire in another part of the home, you will know that an extinguisher can be

found in the kitchen.

Read the operating instructions on the side of the extinguisher now so that you will know

how to use it if needed. Finally, have the extinguisher serviced at the time recommended

by the manufacturer. The manufacturer's service recommendations should be set out on

the side of your fire extinguisher.

Avoiding Fire Risks

As discussed above, cooking is a major cause of fire. Cooking oil can ignite when it

reaches the right temperature. Cooking oil can also splatter and ignite items near the

stove. Pot holders, paper napkins, paper towels, curtains, loose clothes and long hair can

catch fire in this manner. Do not leave frying pans unattended and keep the stove area

clear of clutter.

Cigarette smoking is another leading cause of home fires. Never smoke in bed, do not

rest ashtrays on chair arms and be careful when emptying ashtrays in the trash.

Chimney fires can be avoided by regularly cleaning your chimney. Maintaining your

chimney is discussed at this link. As an additional precaution, do not burn large amounts

of newspaper or other paper in your fireplace or wood stove.

Other fires can be avoided by common sense precautions. Inspect electrical appliances

for frayed wiring. Replace all defective appliance cords. Electrical maintenance and

inspecting appliance cords are discussed at this link. Keep your garage clear of rubbish

and wood shavings. Dispose of oily rags that can ignite by spontaneous combustion.

Store flammable fuels, chemicals and paints outside.

In The Event Of Fire

If a fire breaks out, immediately:

• Get everyone out of the house.

• Meet at the designated area to count heads.

• Call the fire department from a neighbor's home.

If you discover a small fire that is still contained to its source, you can do the following:

Cooking pan fire. Cover a small oil or grease fire in a cooking pan with a lid to smother

the flames. Next, turn off heat to the pan. Do not use water on an oil or grease fire. Water

will spread the flames. Turn off the kitchen exhaust fan. The fan can suck fire through the

fan and ignite the outside of your home.

Oven fire. Turn off the oven and allow the fire to burn itself out. Do not open the oven

door - fresh air will feed the fire and cause it to continue to burn.

Electrical fires. Do not use water on an electrical fire. Water and electricity can be fatal.

If you discover an electrical fire early, use a multipurpose fire extinguisher. Otherwise,

get everyone out of the house, meet at the designated area and call the fire department.