Christmas Fire Safety

CHRISTMAS FIRE SAFETY

       The Christmas holiday season will be here soon and is one of the happiest times of the year. Families and friends gather together to have parties, share meals, and exchange gifts. Sometimes we get so caught up in the moment that we forget to take time to think about safety concerns during the holidays. Here are a few things to keep in mind when preparing for the holiday season.

       It all starts with a tree! When choosing your Christmas tree whether it is real or artificial there are a few things you should consider. When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label “Fire Resistant.” Although this label does not mean the tree won’t catch fire, it does indicate the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly. Having a live tree in your home can be safe if you take the proper precautions. When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green; needles are hard to pull from branches and when bent between your fingers, needles do not break. The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles. When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces and radiators. Because heated rooms dry live trees out rapidly, be sure to keep the stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways. Also be sure that the tree is secure in its stand. Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood burning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to a recycling center or having it picked up by your community sanitation service.                                                                                  

        When decorating your tree or home with lighting whether it is indoor or outdoor, use only lights that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory, which indicates conformance with safety standards. Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections, and throw out damaged sets. Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord. For added electric-shock protection, plug electric lights and decorations into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples or run strings of lights through hooks. Do not use nails or tacks to hold strings in place. Run cords above ground, keeping them out of puddles and snow. Tape all plug connections with plastic electrical tape to make them as watertight as possible. To prevent moisture from entering bulb sockets, bulbs should face the ground. Never place furniture or other objects over electrical cords and in particular, never run electrical cords under a rug. With a rug covering a cord, any damage the cord may sustain can go unnoticed. Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire. Christmas wrapping and decorations can be highly combustible, and should be kept away from heat sources such as candles, lamps, heaters, fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. Gift wrap and boxes should be collected as soon as gifts are opened, and discarded with the garbage or recycled where appropriate. When using lighted candles as decorations never put them on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down.

       If you have a fireplace, have your chimney inspected at least once a year and have it cleaned if necessary. Always use a fire screen, and burn only material appropriate for fireplaces. Burn only wood – never burn trees or wreaths in a fireplace as the burning particles can float up your chimney and onto your roof or into your yard. Do not burn wrapping paper in the fireplace, it is highly flammable and burns at extremely high temperatures because of the additives in the paper. All wrapping papers and boxes should be discarded in the garbage or recycled. Never use flammable liquids in a fireplace. Always remove ashes from your fireplace in a metal container. Ashes may rekindle, so never store them in your home.

When cooking for the holiday season, practice kitchen fire safety with your family. Do not leave cooking food unattended especially when cooking with oil or fat. If grease or oil ignites, remember to always have a lid nearby for the pots and pans you’re using. Should a fire occur, cover the container with a lid and turn the heat source off. You should also have an ABC fire extinguisher available in your home. Make sure your home is equipped with at least one working smoke detector on each level of your home. Have your family implement and practice an emergency home fire escape plan. Following these few fire safety tips will help to ensure you have a safe and happy holiday season. If you have any questions or would like to learn more information on fire safety you can visit our website at www.woodbridgefireprevention.org .

Firefighters Develop Free Program to Help Out Community

Firefighters Develop Free Program to Help Out Community

The Woodbridge Township Professional Firefighters Association (I.A.F.F. Local 290) in cooperation with the Board of Fire Commissioners of Districts 1,2, and 7 (Woodbridge, Sewaren, Port Reading, and Fords) have developed a program aimed at educating residents and providing them smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and also home fire extinguishers at no cost to the residents. This program which is currently raising funds through grants and donations will focus on educating the residents on the importance of fire safety and making sure that their detection devices are in place and operating properly. Local 290 President Keith Repace states the outline of how the program will work is that the firefighters, either as part of their daily duties or on their off time will visit residents who have scheduled an appointment through the fire prevention bureau and conduct a fire safety inspection of the home. This will consist of meeting residents at their homes, showing them common fire hazards, teaching families how to draw up and effectively practice a fire safety plan, showing them how to properly use a fire extinguisher, and also to inspect or replace and if necessary install new smoke and carbon monoxide detectors as well as installing/inspecting home fire extinguishers.
This program was scheduled to start in February but got an early start when a small fire broke out in the basement of the home of a Woodbridge resident. A quick thinking homeowner saved his families home by properly using a fire extinguisher to knock down the fire. Had the family member not been in the basement at the time of the fire the results could have been much worse due to the fact that there was no working smoke detector in the basement. Within a day the Woodbridge Fire Department was at the home installing new smoke detectors, carbon monoxide alarms and fire extinguishers. The homeowner also received a home safety inspection and was shown ways in which to prevent fires as well as how to safely escape in the event of a fire.
Every year in the United States, about 3,000 people lose their lives in residential fires. Most fire victims die from inhalation of smoke and toxic gases, not as a result of burns. Cooking equipment is the leading cause of home structure fires and home fire injuries, while smoking materials still remain the leading cause of home fire deaths. Over 70 % of the reported home structure fires and 84% of the fatal home fires occur in one or two family homes. More than half of these deaths and injuries occur in fires that happen at night while the victims are asleep. Roughly three-quarters of all fatalities occur in homes without working smoke alarms or where smoke alarms were not present at all. These facts are a scary reality especially when a working smoke alarm can provide an early warning to the presence of fire, thus allowing more time for loved ones to get out safely in the event of a fire.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is also known as “the silent killer”. This is because it is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas. It is the cause of up to 500 accidental deaths each year and a much larger number of sub-lethal poisonings. For this reason it is extremely important that you have a properly working CO detector. Many lives could be saved and much disability prevented if residents could learn to recognize and prevent the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. Preventive efforts such as checking furnace flues, chimneys, and vents for blockages and for proper installation could help to alleviate the hazard. Also make sure they are clear of snow and ice during the winter months. Using good common sense and not trying to heat the home using open flames, ovens and other appliances not intended for heating could reduce the number of carbon monoxide related incidents. It is also recommended that homeowners have their complete heating systems checked before every heating season.
Keeping these safety tips in mind will help to ensure that you and your family stay safe not only through the winter months but throughout the entire year. If you have any questions regarding fire safety or if you live in the participating fire districts and would like to schedule an appointment for your home fire inspection and smoke detector inspection contact the Woodbridge Fire Prevention Bureau at 732-602-6040.

Hydrant Locations Go on the Map

By REBECCA LERNER STAFF WRITER

WOODBRIDGE — One by one, the location of each of the 3,000 fire hydrants in the municipality has been beamed to outer space, triangulated upon by floating satellites and sent back to Earth to be stored in a hand-held GPS device, an expensive item carefully operated by two firefighters.

The eight-week, $4,000 project is the beginning of the township’s larger plan to enter the entirety of its infrastructure — every street, building and manhole cover — into a Geographic Information Systems map, Mayor Frank Pelzman said.

“This is going to help the town tremendously,” he said, adding the endeavor will put vital information “at the fingertips” of emergency-management and homeland security personnel.

The fire-hydrant project will be ready for use in September or October, said Chris Andreasen, director of engineering for Middlesex Water Co.

It will aid firefighters by giving them fast access to key information, Fire Commissioner John Kenny said.

They’ll quickly know the location of hydrants near a fire, the distance between two hydrants, which water main powers each hydrant, the strength of a hydrant’s water pressure, and more, he said.

“It makes our job faster and easier,” Fire Commissioner Patrick Kenny said.

Presently, firefighters have to manually consult paper street maps to find fires and hydrants before responding to emergencies, he said.

The hydrant project is a partnership between the township, Middlesex Water Co. and Woodbridge District 1 Fire Department. The water company is providing the GPS equipment and the fire department has provided two workers, Fire Inspectors Matt Lokos and Tom McNamara.

The water company plans to share data with the fire department and the township, said Dennis Doll, Middlesex Water Co. president.

The full township-wide GIS program is expected to be completed within two to three years, the mayor said. Two of the five phases of the project have already been completed, he said, and the remaining projects are up for bid. Money for the program comes from the township’s Capital Improvement Fund, he said.

Doll said the water company plans to extend the GPS project to the other municipalities it serves, including Avenel, Carteret, Colonia, Edison, Fords, Hopelawn, Iselin, Keasbey, Menlo Park, Metuchen, Port Reading, Sewaren, South Amboy and South Plainfield.

“GIS is something that us utilities are focused on across the country,” the water company president said. “It has critical value.”

Firemen Open Website

WOODBRIDGE — WOODBRIDGE AND SEWAREN residents can get the benefits of a trip to the firehouse with just a click of the mouse now that the Woodbridge Fire Department has launched a Web site.

The site, www.woodbridgefireprevention.org, offers downloadable applications for event permits, home-safety checklists, home fire-escape plans and fire-safety information for youngsters.

The site also offers forms for businesses to update emergency contact information, and evacuation forms residents can fill out to notify firefighters — who have access to laptop computers in fire trucks — if someone in the home has a medical condition and needs assistance getting out. The forms must be returned to the Woodbridge Fire Department once completed.

Arielle Levin Becker

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