Raising the alarm about fire prevention

First Posted: 10/2/2014

1. What is your job title?

I am a certified fire safety inspector.

2. What does your job entail?

I’m in charge of plan reviews, education, enforcing the Ohio fire code and the Ohio building code. Basically, what I do is I go inspect buildings for fire safety issues like fire alarms, sprinkler systems and exiting.

3. So what are some of the top things people can do in their homes for fire safety?

One of the biggest things for us is smoke detectors. We found out, in plenty of homes equipped with working smoke detectors that have fires, most of those people are able to escape because of the early warning. While we ran into over the years, those homes without either a smoke detector or with smoke detectors that aren’t working — batteries removed, batteries are dead, things like that — in those homes where there is no early notification of a fire, that’s where fatalities happen.

4. What are the top fire safety mistakes people make?

Thinking it won’t happen to me. Most people in our country believe it won’t happen to them, and it does. There is a fire every 90 seconds. Biggest thing we see, is people just not being prepared. Again, we talked about fire detectors, not having them, and not having a home fire escape plan. Most people, in their businesses, have fire drills. They have a fire evacuation route set up, but people in homes don’t think about it. So, one of the issues we have is when they have that fire, they don’t realize how quickly that fire is and how rapidly they progress. So, if you don’t have a working smoke detector or an escape plan, that’s when we run into problems.

5. How many people die in fires every year?

I believe there is a fire death in the U.S. about every three hours.

6. What are the most challenging aspects of your job?

Convincing people that anyone can have a fire. Again, they think it won’t happen to them. We really stress to people that they need to be prepared. It’s one of those things you need to be prepared for ahead of time, so your home is safe, your business is safe from fire.

7. What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part is probably the public education aspect. We had a fire one year where we had a young man that went through our Safety City program, and in a house fire, he was able to crawl under the smoke to his grandmother’s room, who happened to be an invalid, to pull her down out of the bed and drag her out of the home to safety. Had he not had that training or taken that class, the outcome could have been different.

8. What is one thing that would surprise most people about fires?

The destruction and how rapidly it progresses. Fire doubles in size about every minute. So, that small kitchen fire, for instance, if they don’t get that put out quickly, within a minute it will have doubled in size. Now it’s in the cabinets and the walls. The next thing they know, they have a huge fire. A lot of people are surprised by the temperature — how hot it gets and there is no visibility. When you’re actually working a fire, usually the visibility is zero.

9. Are you doing anything special for fire prevention week?

We go to all the elementary schools in the city. We, basically, are talking to second graders. This year’s theme is, “Working smoke detectors save lives.” Our plan is to teach the children to go home and talk to their parents about having a working smoke detector and also setting up a fire escape plan. One of the important aspects of that is to have a safe meeting place, so once you are out of the fire, you stay out. Everybody has to go to a central location, so they know everyone got out safely.

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