Tips for fire safety in summer

Working fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, fire sprinklers and emergency drills can keep you and your family safe in case of fire

rajuretic@sbcglobal.netJuly 10, 2013 

Scott O’Brien suggests homeowners purchase commercial-grade fire extinguishers that can be refilled instead of disposable extinguishers.


    TAKE TIME FOR PREVENTION Summer is a good time to practice fire prevention around the home. Clear weeds and debris that could fuel a fire. Make sure there are no flammable materials near the water heater. Check fire extinguishers and do a family fire drill. Also, make sure all possible escape routes are clear from boxes, furniture and other items.

    EXTINGUISHER BASICS A five-pound rechargeable fire extinguisher is recommended for most households. If you have difficulty lifting that much weight, opt for a 2.5-pound extinguisher. Metal heads last much longer than plastic heads.

    SPRINKLER CARE If you have fire sprinklers in your home, take care not to bump them, hang things from them or paint them. If they are concealed by covers, paint may prevent the cover from detaching during a fire.

With an unusually dry rainy season behind us and months of warm weather ahead, thoughts naturally turn to the possibility of fire. It’s a topic well understood by Scott O’Brien, who owns Scott O’Brien Fire & Safety with partner Bryan Matherly.

The Atascadero-based company has been in business for 13 years and services San Luis Obispo, Monterey and Santa Barbara Counties. It services fire extinguishers and handles installation and repair of fire sprinklers for residential customers. Commercial services include fire training and exit and emergency light services.

According to O’Brien, many homeowners have a false sense of security regarding fire extinguishers. Few realize that the majority of home extinguishers are disposable and need to be replaced annually. After a year, the powder in the extinguisher can settle and clump, the unit can leak and lose pressure, or parts in the valve and nozzle can corrode or deteriorate.

He suggests purchasing a commercial-grade rechargeable extinguisher that can be refilled every year by a company like O’Brien’s. In the long run, it is a more cost-efficient option. Rechargeable extinguishers cost $35 to $55, versus $25 to $35 for a disposable extinguisher. Refilling costs around $25, and the extinguisher can last 24 years or more.

Strategic placement of extinguishers is also important. O’Brien recommends keeping one wherever fire is likely, such as the kitchen, garage and near the water heater. “They should be no further than 15 feet away from a hazard area,” he said.

If you have a multi-level home, have at least one extinguisher on each level. It also makes sense to keep one outdoors during the summer in case of fires caused by yard equipment or barbecues. You can mount one outdoors yearround, although it will cut down on the longevity of the extinguisher.

Although extinguishers aren’t exactly decorator objects, it helps to keep them in plain sight. Burying one at the back of a cabinet or up high out of reach means you lose precious seconds retrieving it in an emergency. If you do put it in acabinet, make sure family members know where it is. A good way to do this is with a yearly fire drill where family members practice escape routes and brush up on how to use extinguishers.

“Unless you practice it, when an accident happens and you’re under stress, you may not remember what to do,” he said.

Finally, don’t forget to change the batteries in your smoke alarm once a year. And keep in mind that the alarms only last 10 to 15 years. So while you’re up there, activate the test button to see if the unit is still working.

The small investment in time and money is worth it, according to O’Brien, who said that “having adequate fire protection is the cheapest insurance you can buy.”

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