Experts offer tips on protecting your family from house fires - WSMV Channel 4

Experts offer tips on protecting your family from house fires

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The latest in a recent series of deadly fires across Middle Tennessee claimed the life of an 84-year-old man early Friday in his Goodlettsville home.

Over the last two weeks, we've reported on fires at eight different homes - and 12 people have lost their lives.

Channel 4 News is Working 4 You with what you can do to protect your family from fires, and there is some surprising insight from those on the front lines.

An estimated 75 percent of the people who die in house fires don't have a working smoke alarm, but that is just the beginning of the conversation. Some people wrongly assume they would smell the smoke in their sleep and still be able to get out alive.

"The fact is you don't always smell toxic gasses, and it's not typically the fire that kills most people. It's the toxic gasses and smoke byproducts of the fire," said Gary West, Tennessee assistant commissioner for fire prevention.

The dozen victims of house fires are not statistics - they are people who were loved, and that is why this matters so much.

Officials say the No. 1 cause of fire deaths in Tennessee is smoking inside the home, and that is believed to be the cause in at least one fatal fire this week.

Space heater fires rank second, as people get them too close to clothes, drapes or other flammable materials.

And third are electrical fires, which is a scary thought but also very preventable.

"It's not typically the home wiring, it's the appliances," West said. "They have things like electrical strips or an extension cord, with a couch or chair sitting on that, mashing the cord down, heating it up to catch fire."

Experts offer several pieces of advice to keep your family safe:

  • Start by mapping out a plan of action now, and make a note of all the possible escape routes from every room in your home.
  • If you have young children or an elderly family member in your home, make sure someone is responsible for helping them get out safely.
  • Take an inventory of all your smoke alarms and make sure there is a working alarm with new batteries in every room where someone sleeps.
  • Ensure your street number is posted clearly on your mailbox or somewhere visible from the road so fire crews can easily find your home in an emergency.
  • Walk around your home and check every electrical cord and power strip. Look at the wires, feel if they are warm to the touch, have any visible fraying or are touching anything flammable such as furniture.

There are two types of smoke alarms sold in stores: an ionization alarm and a photo-electric alarm. An ionization alarm is quicker to detect smoke from flaming fires, while a photo-electric alarm is better at detecting slow-smoldering fires. Experts recommend having both types in your home or buying an alarm that uses both technologies.

With the beginning of Daylight Saving Time this weekend, remember to change the batteries and test every smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector in your home.

Many local fire departments are giving away free smoke detectors. Davidson County residents can get one by contacting the Nashville Fire Department at 615-862-5282.

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