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Fire Safety Tips
Safety messages about smoke alarms
Sep 28, 2015

Smoke alarms are a key part of a home fire escape plan. When there is a fire, smoke spreads fast. Working smoke alarms give you early warning so you can get outside quickly.

Safety tips
  • Install smoke alarms inside and outside each bedroom and sleeping area. Install alarms on every level of the home. Install alarms in the basement.
  • Large homes may need extra smoke alarms.
  • It is best to use interconnected smoke alarms. When one smoke alarm sounds they all sound.
  • Test all smoke alarms at least once a month. Press the test button to be sure the alarm is working.
  • There are two kinds of alarms. Ionization smoke alarms are quicker to warn about flaming fires. Photoelectric alarms are quicker to warn about smoldering fires. It is best to use of both types of alarms in the home.
  • A smoke alarm should be on the ceiling or high on a wall. Keep smoke alarms away from the kitchen to reduce false alarms. They should be at least 10 feet (3 meters) from the stove.
  • People who are hard-of-hearing or deaf can use special alarms. These alarms have strobe lights and bed shakers.
  • Replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old.
  • Smoke alarms are an important part of a home fire escape plan.
Plan your escape

Your ability to get out of your house during a fire depends on advance warning from smoke alarms and advance planning.

  • Get everyone in your household together and make a home escape plan (PDF, 1.1 MB). Walk through your home and look for two ways out of every room.
  • Make sure escape routes are clear of debris and doors and windows open easily. Windows with security bars or grills should have an emergency release device.
  • Plan an outside meeting place where everyone will meet once they have escaped. A good meeting place is something permanent, like a tree, light pole, or mailbox a safe distance in front of the home.
  • If there are infants, older adults, family members with mobility limitations or children who do not wake to the sound of the smoke alarm, make sure that someone is assigned to assist them in the event of an emergency.
  • If the smoke alarm sounds, get outside and stay outside. Respond quickly – get up and go, remember to know two ways out of every room, get yourself outside quickly, and go to your outside meeting place with your family.
  • Learn more about home escape planning.

Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Sep 28, 2015
  • Service all heating systems and all gas-, oil- or coal-burning appliances by a technician annually.
  •  Install a battery-operated and electric-powered carbon monoxide detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. If the detector sounds, leave your home immediately and call 911.
  • Contact a doctor if you believe you have carbon monoxide poisoning.
  •  Do not use gas-powered devices such as a generator, grill or stove inside your home, basement or near a near a window or door. Generators should be operated more than 15 feet from the home.
  • Do not run any gas-powered motor inside a closed structure, such as a garage.
  • Do not heat a home with a gas oven.

Source: Maine Center for Disease Control and Maine State Fire Marshall

Wood Burning Safety Tips
Sep 28, 2015

While some home owners who burn wood view a chimney fire as "normal" and "expected", the truth is many wood burners have never experienced a chimney fire.

While newer woodstoves that burn wood efficiently help to prevent creosote build up, ...the key to preventing a chimney fire is to burn well seasoned woodburn at the proper temperatures for the stove and chimney and frequently check and clean the chimney when needed.

"Preventing a chimney fire starts with the fuel source," says Jake Johnson, Bangor Fire Department's Public Education Officer. "You wouldn't knowingly fuel up your car with gas that had water in it and it's the same way with the wood you put in your woodstove . . . stoves work better when the wood is truly seasoned and most experts will tell you that while many folks have many different definitions of what is seasoned wood and what is green in most cases the wood should be bucked up, split and stacked for a year prior."

Johnson adds that creosote can form in a chimney by burning green, unseasoned wood, but it can also be produced when the home owner operates a stove at too low a temperature or suffocates the fire. Many times creosote production can be aggravated when the home owner shuts down the air control on an air-tight stove and lets it smolder all night long. Knowing the optimal temperature that a stove and chimney should be running at can help minimize creosote production.

Finally, Johnson says it's always a good idea to frequently inspect and clean the chimney. "It's a good idea to check the chimney every month and run a chimney brush through the chimney whenever there is a quarter inch or so of creosote," says Johnson. "It's always easier to sweep the chimney when there is just a little bit of build up versus having to yank the brush through a chimney that is almost plugged solid."

And what about those powders, logs and liquid sprays that promise to clean the chimney without any sweeping? Johnson says these powders and liquid sprays may have a place as they help convert hard glass- and tar-like creosote to drier, powdery creosote that can be swept, but he quickly adds that they are not a substitute for sweeping or burning seasoned wood at the appropriate temps.

While some home owners also may not view a chimney fire as a serious hazard, Johnson cautions that it is far too easy for a small chimney fire to develop into a more serious fire as a fire in the chimney can damage the liner and the sparks and heat from a fire can spread into the home's structure.

If you do have a chimney fire -- often heard before it is seen as it sounds like a jet or train taking off with a rumbling sound in the chimney or stove pipe -- you should immediately call 911. Attempting to fight a chimney fire without help on the way can be a dangerous and in some cases futile proposition.

Chimney Safety Tips
Sep 28, 2015

We see it every year: fatal fires that could possibly be prevented. Two brother's lives were tragically taken this week from a fire that started in a chimney. Jason Johnson, Public Education Officer for the Bangor Fire Department, says there are steps home owners can take to prevent these types of fires.

"It never hurts to, you know, check and make sure you have installed the stove correctly. Assuming that folks have done that, the next best thing is to check and clean the chimney. Especially if folks haven't done that yet, I recommend that you usually do that about every month, or so, and if there is about a quarter inch of creosote in that chimney, they should sweep it out," said Johnson.

Monthly sweeps come down to preference.

"They can either hire a professional chimney sweep, or if they feel comfortable, they can buy their own equipment for not a lot of money at most hardware stores and they can sweep it out," said Johnson.

When it comes to logs sold that are designed to sweep chimneys by burning them in the hearth, Johnson says using them alone isn't enough.

"Most experts say that they're not really going to harm things, but they don't act, but they're not in place of doing the actual physical sweeping of it. Whether you do it yourself, what they tend to do is they tend to dry things out enough, or use some chemicals and what it will do is it will take the really bad form of creosote and make it into a type that's a little bit drier, or a little bit easier to sweep. In itself will not do the job. You need to have a physical sweeping of the chimney," said Johnson.

Stove placement should be also be a major consideration.

"Making sure the stove is far enough away from anything that can burn, including the walls and other items that can catch on fire. We've seen a fatality, to several fatalities with that. Also, it goes into the chimney flue and the chimney itself," said Johnson.

Proper disposable of ashes is another factor.

"I always recommend that when people dispose of the ashes, they put it into a covered metal pail outside away from anything that can catch fire," said Johnson.

What could have possibly saved the lives of the Davis brothers were working or exsisting smoke detectors.

"That's been one recurring theme we've been seeing over and over again, is folks are dying in fires, folks are getting really seriously injured in fires and the common theme, the common thread that holds it all together is so many times there's just no smoke detectors, or no working smoke detectors," said Johnson.

When it comes to fire prevention, just taking a few simple steps can mean the difference between life and death.

Driving in Snow & Ice
Sep 28, 2015

The best advice for driving in bad winter weather is not to drive at all, if you can avoid it.

Don't go out until the snow plows and sanding trucks have had a chance to do their work, and allow yourself extra time to reach your destination.

If you must drive in snowy conditions, make sure your car is prepared (TIPS), and that you know how to handle road conditions.

It's helpful to practice winter driving techniques in a snowy, open parking lot, so you're familiar with how your car handles. Consult your owner's manual for tips specific to your vehicle.

Driving safely on icy roads

  • Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.
  • Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brake.
  • Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists.
  • Keep your lights and windshield clean.
  • Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.
  • Don't use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.
  • Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, which will freeze first. Even at temperatures above freezing, if the conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed roadways like bridges.
  • Don't pass snow plows and sanding trucks. The drivers have limited visibility, and you're likely to find the road in front of them worse than the road behind.
  • Don't assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble on winter roads.

If your rear wheels skid...

  • Take your foot off the accelerator.
  • Steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they're sliding right, steer right.
  • If your rear wheels start sliding the other way as you recover, ease the steering wheel toward that side. You might have to steer left and right a few times to get your vehicle completely under control.
  • If you have standard brakes, pump them gently.
  • If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), do not pump the brakes. Apply steady pressure to the brakes. You will feel the brakes pulse — this is normal.

If your front wheels skid...

  • Take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, but don't try to steer immediately.
  • As the wheels skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle and traction will return. As it does, steer in the direction you want to go. Then put the transmission in "drive" or release the clutch, and accelerate gently.

If you get stuck...

  • Do not spin your wheels. This will only dig you in deeper.
  • Turn your wheels from side to side a few times to push snow out of the way.
  • Use a light touch on the gas, to ease your car out.
  • Use a shovel to clear snow away from the wheels and the underside of the car.
  • Pour sand, kitty litter, gravel or salt in the path of the wheels, to help get traction.
  • Try rocking the vehicle. (Check your owner's manual first — it can damage the transmission on some vehicles.) Shift from forward to reverse, and back again. Each time you're in gear, give a light touch on the gas until the vehicle gets going.

Page Last Updated: Sep 28, 2015 (14:37:52)
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