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Fall is here and winter is on the way, so it’s time to do a little fire safety prevention before the winter sets in. Here are a few reminders and tips:

If you have a wood-burning stove or fireplace, clean the chimney. Over the last winter, soot and grime have built up on the walls of the chimney. Throughout the spring and summer, critters can move in to stay out of the weather, and it is a good place for them to hide from predators. Make sure the flue is working properly and the box is in good repair with no cracks. Make sure when you dispose of the ashes they are completely cool, and only dispose of them in non-flammable metal containers. It only takes a tiny cinder to start a large fire.

If you use space heaters, keep the fan area clean. Place them at least 3 feet from all combustible materials. Be sure the cord is not frayed, worn or cracked. Plug them directly into the outlet. Do not use extension cords. Do not let debris pile around them. Be sure they are in a well-ventilated area. Don’t leave them running unattended. If you leave or when you go to bed, be sure to turn them off. Be sure they are well-ventilated, and do not use propane space heaters in the house.

Change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. If you have the hard-wired kind, test them. This is the quickest way to be alerted. In case of a fire, you only have 3 minutes to get out of your house. Have an escape plan and practice it. Be sure everyone knows at least two ways to get out and where to meet. Close your bedroom doors at night, as this will slow the progress of a fire and give you more time to escape. If you have a two-story house, purchase a rope ladder and keep it by the window.

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Clean your dryer vents. Check the place where it leaves your house and be sure it is not blocked. Clean the vent tube and anywhere else there can be lint buildup. Dryers are one of the most common causes of fires.

Have a warm and safe winter.

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About the author: Karen Brightenburg is a member of the Southeast Nebraska Medical Reserve Corps, POI, which provides trained volunteers to support the community’s daily public health needs and responses to local emergencies in times of crisis.

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