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Consider fire safety in springtime planning

As warmer weather returns and people turn their attention to spring cleaning and enjoy the outdoors, it’s also a good time to make sure safety measures are in place to reduce the risk of a house fire. Russellville Fire Department fire marshal Justin Green said homeowners should keep the following in mind:

1. Change your batteries in your smoke alarm.

Smoke alarms batteries should be changed every six months, which is why conventional wisdom recommends changing the batteries when the time changes. “If the power goes out at your house or something like that, your battery is what’s going to alert you there is a fire,” Green noted.

Batteries don’t last forever, so ensuring those smoke alarms are in good working order means ensuring they are supplied with fresh batteries every six months. Most require 9-volt batteries, while others take AA – either of which are widely available and easy to replace.

2. Check the date of your smoke alarm.

Homeowners should check the date of manufacture and date of installation of their smoke alarms and replace them if necessary. “They are only good for 10 years,” Green explained. Although many homeowners forget to note the date of installation on the device, Green said there is an easy tell-tale sign to look for: “If it’s not white – if it’s discolored – it’s most likely out of date.”

As with any electronics, smoke alarms can fail, which is why they must be replaced every 10 years. Newer homes fall under the code requiring hardwired alarms with battery backup, which Green said are readily available at Walmart or most any hardware store.

Homes require, at minimum, one smoke alarm per floor, and Green recommends one outside each bedroom. Smoke alarms should not be installed near the kitchen.

3. Observe safe storage for gasoline.

As people are purchasing gas for their power tools and lawn mowers, Green urged storing all combustible liquids outside, away from the house. “If they’re not sealed off, you’ll have vapors, and the vapors catch fire,” Green said. “Most people put them in their garage.” The garage can be an acceptable location, especially in newer homes in which the garage is built to a one-hour fire rating; however, Green recommends storing gasoline  away from the house in a separate area if possible. For homeowners with no other option besides the garage, Green recommends installing heat detectors in the garage that tie into smoke alarm system.

4. Check all extension cords before use.

Green said homeowners should check their extension cords for any fraying, deterioration or destruction by rodents or other sources before use. Plugging in damaged extension cords “could actually burn up your equipment,” Green said. “It could short, electrocute you or, if left unattended, maybe cause a fire.”

5. Clean your grill before firing it up for that springtime cookout.

All backyard grill masters should clean grills before the first cookout of the season, and Green said homeowners should make sure grills are at least 10 feet from the home for safe cooking. Homeowners should also take necessary precautions with disposal of used charcoal – do not dispose of it in plastic garbage bins.

6. Pools and electricity don’t mix.

The Russellville Fire Department can test pools to make sure there is no short in the pool to eliminate risk of electrocution while cleaning and preparing it for the season.

7. Spring cleaning – dispose of hazardous materials.

Green recommends getting rid of cleaning supplies you don’t plan to use, old paint cans, stacks of old cardboard and any other unneeded materials that could easily contribute to a fire.

8. Be cautious with fire pits.

A little campfire can be the perfect way to close out a spring evening, especially with the right precautions in place. Make sure to have some kind of extinguisher handy, and keep an eye on children and pets to keep them a safe distance from the flames.

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