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Our View: Take a pause to think about fire prevention and safety this week | COMMENTARY

These days, fire prevention is probably the last thing on your mind. But as Fire Prevention Week wraps up in the coming days, there are plenty of reasons it should be.

A number of people and their children continue to work or learn from home as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. That means more households are using and charging electronic devices than usual.

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About 900 computer or computer equipment fires occurred annually ins U.S. homes between 2014 and 2018, according to the National Fire Prevention Association, causing about $50 million in direct property damage.

Make sure electrical cords are in good condition and throw away any frayed or damaged cords. If you notice a device or charger becoming excessively hot or start emitting a burning smell, unplug it immediately and discontinue use, the NFPA warns.

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If you’ve noticed frequent problems with tripping circuit breakers or blown fuses with more devices plugged in, it might be wise to call an electrician.

With more of us being home, and restaurants still offering limited dine-in capacity, you might also find yourself cooking more meals at home than usual or letting your children use the microwave to prepare themselves lunch.

The theme of Fire Prevention Week this year is “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen!” Did you know almost half (44%) of reported home fires started in the kitchen and that cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries in the U.S.?

The Office of the State Fire Marshal reminds people not to leave cooking food unattended, even if for a short time. The office also recommends keeping an over mitt and pan lid nearby when cooking. If a grease fire starts, slide the lid over the pan to smother the flame, then turn off the burner and leave the pan covered until it is completely cool.

Should you have a microwave fire, don’t open it up. Leave the door closed, turn it off and unplug it. If the fire doesn’t go out, get out of the house and call the fire department.

While most people think about outdoor grilling in the summer months, there might still be a few nice days where you want to do some outdoor cooking. Make sure your grill is clean to prevent flare ups of grease that might be collecting near the burners if you’ve been using your grill a lot over the summer.

If children were in school, they might have been getting visits from local fire companies to talk about fire prevention or having fire drills this week. Since they aren’t, now is a good time to talk to them about a plan if there is a fire in the home. Talk about how to exit the house safely and designate a meet-up spot outside in case of a fire.

Check smoke alarms in your home to make sure they are working. If you still have battery-only smoke detectors, now is the time to replace them with the sealed, 10-year battery alarms with the hush feature. Maryland law has required these types of alarms for couple years now, but some households still aren’t in compliance.

Colder weather is also around the corner, and some people may be using space heaters, especially if your makeshift office or school desk is setup in the basement or another cooler part of the house.

Keep heaters at least three feet away from anything that is flammable, like curtains or papers. Place them on level ground, and not on top of things like cabinets or furniture, and plug them directly into a dedicated wall outlet rather than an extension cord or power strip, which could overheat and cause a fire according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International. Don’t forget to unplug it when it’s not in use.

Fire prevention isn’t always going to be a front of mind issue, especially with everything else going on in the world, but it’s something we should think about from time to time and take steps to keep ourselves and our families safe.

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