2004-04-16 / Community

Notes On Consumer Affairs

By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer

Pheffer, right, with Dan Tubridy (c) and Councilman Joe Addabbo at St. Pat’s Parade.Pheffer, right, with Dan Tubridy (c) and Councilman Joe Addabbo at St. Pat’s Parade.

Hearing the song "Great Balls of Fire" by Jerry Lee Lewis may bring back warm feelings of the recklessness of youth. However, a great ball of fire engulfing a home in flames is a tragic occurrence.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that more than 4,000 people die each year in home fires, and more than 500,000 residential fires are serious enough to be reported to fire departments. More than ninety-percent of residential fire deaths and injuries result from fires in one and two family houses and apartments. Most fire victims die from inhalation of smoke and toxic gases, not as a result of burns. Most deaths and injuries occur in fires that happen at night while the victims are asleep.

The statistics are staggering. The fact that many of the fire-related tragedies may be prevented make those facts and figures that much more disturbing. Prevention can be accomplished simply by owning, testing and maintaining your smoke alarms and practicing a fire escape plan.

The CPSC recommends installing a working smoke alarm on every level of the home, outside sleeping areas, and inside bedrooms. You should test your smoke alarms at least once a month and replace the batteries at least annually, such as when resetting clocks in the fall or spring. When battery power is low, your smoke alarm may emit a low-power warning in the form of a chirping sound. You should immediately replace the battery to insure that the smoke alarm will provide you with continued protection.

Smoke alarms are designed to detect fires as soon as possible, and certain sensors contained in smoke alarms may be more effective at sensing different types of fires. There are two basic types of sensors currently available: ionization and photoelectric. The ionization smoke alarm is generally more effective against fast-flaming fires that consume materials rapidly and spread quickly. Examples of a fast-flaming fire are paper fires in wastebaskets and grease fires from the kitchen. Photoelectric smoke alarms are more effective against slow smoldering fires such as fires caused by a cigarette burning in a couch or bedding. You can also purchase smoke detectors that incorporate both types of sensor technology, thereby eliminating the need to purchase both types of smoke detectors. The chance of surviving a fire doubles when there are working smoke alarms in the home. Carefully read all instructions regarding proper placement and testing of your particular smoke alarms. For more information, call the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s toll-free hotline, 1-800-638-2772 or visit its website at http:// www. cpsc.gov.

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