Sunday, January 13, 2019

Seconds Count: Home Heating Tips from your Local Fire Departments

Volunteers from the West Chazy Fire Department work on extinguishing a house fire.
The holiday rush is over and we are settling into the New Year, full of resolutions and ambitions. Along with my health related resolutions (come on, we all have them…don’t we?), I am adding a few home safety improvements to my list. After hearing of multiple home fires over the past few weeks I decided to reach out to our local fire departments to answer some of my burning questions (see what I did there?) and get expert advice to share with you. 

I found out that residential fires tend to peak in January according to the U.S. Fire Administration. When asked what causes most of these fires in the North Country our local fire departments overwhelmingly responded with improperly maintained heating systems.  Jason Goodspeed, Volunteer Firefighter with the West Chazy Volunteer Fire Department explains “The chimney and flue’s function is to carry dangerous gasses from your fireplace, woodstove or furnace safely out of your home. When the gases exit the fireplace or wood stove creosote can stick to and build up in your chimney. If the chimney doesn’t get inspected and cleaned each year a buildup of creosote will cause fire combustion inside the chimney which can spread into your home.” Ryan Sponable, Firefighter and Paramedic at the City of Plattsburgh Fire Department says that furnaces should be treated like chimneys – regularly maintained and inspected. 
 Creosote build up.

I have a woodstove at home, to extinguish my fears (sorry, I can't help myself) of a chimney fire, I make sure to schedule a yearly inspection and cleaning with a certified chimney sweep professional. I also have a small space heater that I use occasionally but have heard some scary stories about those so I asked the professionals their thoughts on firing up space heaters. Dereck Fleming, Lieutenant of Cumberland Head Volunteer Fire Department, says that “Space heaters can be useful, but make sure the heater is at least 3 feet away from anything flammable, like curtains or bedding. Make sure they are shut off when leaving the room and that they cannot be easily tipped over. Roughly two thirds of all heating related fires are caused by space heaters.” One big problem that the City of Plattsburgh Fire Department sees is people overloading power strips. Both Ryan and Dan Dumas, Fire Chief at the Mooers Volunteer Fire Department, echo that if you are using a space heater it should be plugged directly into a properly sized outlet, without the use of extension cords or power strips.

Overloaded power strip resulting in an electrical fire.

Just like we focus on prevention here at the Health Department, our local fire departments want you to practice fire prevention at home. The number one way to do this is to have a fire escape plan and practice it! Fire Chief Dumas reminds us that smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are proven life savers and should be tested each and every month. Batteries should be replaced 1-2 times each year, or as needed. When I asked where these life saving devices should be installed Firefighter Goodspeed responded “According to the National Fire Protection Association, smoke alarms need to be installed inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement. Carbon monoxide detectors should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. Remember, seconds count.”  

Another topic of discussion was fire extinguishers. It turns out the most common type of fire extinguisher in homes is a multipurpose extinguisher labeled as ABC but Firefighter Goodspeed reminds us to take into account the type of materials in the immediate area and select the appropriate extinguisher for your needs. Firefighter/Paramedic Sponable said it is recommended to have at least 2 fire extinguishers on the first floor and at least 1 on the second floor. He adds that the kitchen, laundry room and garage tend to be where fire extinguishers are needed the most and that there is a push to start having them located in bedrooms and patios as well. Fire Chief Dumas says “Remember, fires spread very quickly and a call to 911 should always be placed so the fire department can be sure the fire is extinguished and has not spread. When in doubt, get out and call 911!”

The Clinton County Health Department’s Healthy Neighborhoods Program can help keep your home and family fire safe by providing education and safety products. The best news – it’s FREE for anyone in Clinton County. Give us a call to set up a visit: 518-565-4870.

Let’s recap, that was a lot of (awesome) information to digest. Here’s the cliff notes version:  

  • Have a fire escape plan and practice it!
  • Properly maintain your heating system and schedule regular cleanings and inspections with certified companies. 
  • Keep space heaters at least 3 feet from flammable materials, do not leave them unattended and plug them directly into an outlet. Do not use with extension cords or power strips.
  • Make sure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are installed in appropriate locations, test them each month and replace batteries at least 1-2 times a year. 
  • Taking into account the type of materials in the immediate area, purchase and install appropriate fire extinguishers on every level of your home. Generally, the first floor should have at least 2 extinguishers. 

Some other safety tips generously provided by The City of Plattsburgh Fire Department: 
  • NEVER run a generator inside. 
  • It is recommended to sleep with your bedroom door shut. This allows extra time to escape and prevents harmful gases and heat from entering your bedroom. 
  • Never open a door if the knob is hot to touch. If you are unable to escape put clothing or towels at the bottom of the door to prevent gases and heat from entering. Call 911 and open windos to alert first responders of your location. 
  • Always clean lint from your dryer.
Special thanks to:
  • Dan Dumas, Fire Chief, Mooers Volunteer Fire Department
  • Dereck Fleming, Lieutenant of Cumberland Head Volunteer Fire Department
  • Ryan Sponable, Firefighter/Paramedic, City of Plattsburgh Fire Department
  • Jason Goodspeed, Firefighter, West Chazy Volunteer Fire Department
Here’s to a happy and safe New Year!

KayLeigh Raville
Public Health Nutritionist
Health Planning and Promotion Division  

Friday, December 28, 2018

Myth Busters Flu Edition: Give Us Your Best Shot!

We have all heard the opinion of others when it comes to the flu, but how do we know what information is real and what isn’t? With flu season in full swing, and all of the misconceptions circulating this time of year, we have compiled a list of the top flu myths to help keep you and your family healthy this flu season.

Myth 1: The flu vaccine can give you the flu.
The truth is, it is scientifically impossible to get the flu from a vaccine. The flu shot is either made from an inactivated (dead) virus that cannot cause the flu, or it’s made by using a single gene from a flu virus (as opposed to the full virus). The single gene is enough to produce an immune response without causing infection. The nasal spray, which is available this flu season, does contain live viruses, but the viruses have been weakened, and cannot give you the flu. So the next time someone tells you this, tell them it can’t happen, because- science says so! Read more here on why this myth persists.

Myth 2:  You’re healthy, so you don’t need the flu vaccine.
We wish this one was true, but in reality anyone can get the flu. It is correct that certain people are at higher risk for developing serious complications from the flu, but everyone 6 months of age and older should get vaccinated.   

Myth 3: It’s better to get the flu than the flu vaccine.
Tell this to someone who has had the flu before. The flu not only can cause body aches, fever, cough, and chills, but it can cause serious symptoms, hospitalization, or death, even among healthy children and adults.  So, don’t risk it; get the flu shot!

Myth 4: You don’t need a flu vaccine every year.
The flu virus typically changes each year, and even when it hasn’t, our immunity decreases as time goes on. Getting vaccinated every year is our best shot (pun intended) at getting the protection we need against the flu.

Myth 5: Pregnant women shouldn't get the flu vaccine.
Actually, flu vaccines given during pregnancy help protect both the mom and her baby from flu. A recent 2018 study showed that getting a flu shot reduced a pregnant woman’s risk of being hospitalized with flu by an average of 40 percent.

Myth 6: It’s too late in the season to get vaccinated.
Although the CDC recommends getting vaccinated by the end of October, getting vaccinated later is still beneficial. Flu is unpredictable and seasons can vary. Seasonal flu usually peaks between December and February, but it can occur as late as May. So if you haven’t gotten your flu shot yet, don’t worry, it’s not too late!

Myth 7: Getting the flu vaccination is all you need to do to protect yourself from the flu.
Don’t be silly. We can all help stop the spread of germs. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water; try to avoid close contact with sick people (people with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away); and try not to touch your eyes, mouth, and nose.

Myth 8: You can't spread the flu if you're feeling well.
Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop. That means you can pass the flu onto someone else before you even know you are sick. Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms, during this time, they can still pass the virus on to others.  

Myth 9: If you have a high fever with the flu that lasts more than a day or two, antibiotics may be necessary.
Antibiotics only work against bacteria; they are not effective against a viral infection like the flu. Click here to learn about what to do if you get sick with the flu.

Myth 10: The flu is just a bad cold.
The flu may cause bad cold symptoms, like sore throat, runny nose and cough, but the CDC estimates show that more than 900,000 people were hospitalized and more than 80,000 people died from flu last season. These are record-breaking numbers, and stress the seriousness of the flu.

You are now a flu whiz. Spread your knowledge, not your germs😀

Lindsay Dareff
Registered Professional Nurse
Health Planning and Promotion Division