Editorial: Alarmed? At home, cast your own ‘vote’ for fire safety

The ballots are in.

To the collective credit of the electorate of Hood River County, the total turnout will likely surpass 75 percent for the Nov. 6 general election.

It is encouraging that more than three-quarters of eligible voters turned in their ballots in this critical election.

This is the time of year another kind of campaign has been on, one that does not involve candidates and ballot measures.

It has to do with pushing a few buttons at home: The Office of State Fire Marshal is urging residents this time of year to test their smoke alarms.

This is annually emphasized when we all “fall back” with our clocks. If, in this time of election you forgot to do so, why not celebrate the end of the election season with this simple task, one simpler and more satisfying than dealing with robo calls and repetitive mailers?

Cast your vote for home fire safety by checking this week to see that your smoke alarms are working.

Chief Deputy State Fire Marshal Jim Walker notes that smoke alarm technology has advanced and many now come with features such as long-life batteries. “We encourage residents to test their alarms before changing the battery,” Walker said.

“Ensuring you have working smoke alarms in your home is the single most important step you can take to increase your family’s safety from a home fire,” added Walker.

To check your alarm properly: do the following:

  1. Push the test button to be sure the battery is working.
  2. Vacuum the alarm to remove dust and cobwebs.
  3. Inspect your alarm to determine if it is 10 years old or older. Replace any smoke alarm 10 years old or older, and any alarm that does not operate.

Walker notes that working smoke alarms provide a critical early warning to a fire, allowing you vital minutes to escape, increasing your chances of survival. Additional safety tips:

n Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, in each bedroom and outside each sleeping area.

n Hard-wired alarms (those wired directly into home electrical systems) should have battery back-ups.

n Never disconnect or remove batteries from smoke alarms for other uses.

n Use the smoke alarm’s hush feature to silence nuisance alarms.

Finally, make a home escape plan and practice it with family members.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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