In 1917, a great fire destroyed the homes of 10,000 Atlantans, according to a Georgia Public Broadcasting documentary. According to the program, the predominance of wooden structures caused the fire to spread quickly. Since then, advances in building design have helped to reduce the likelihood of fires, but the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) reminds us that fires still caused more than $6 billion of damage to homes across the U.S. in 2011.
Locally, the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department (AFRD) has 35 stations, which handled more than 96,800 calls last year, from fires to medical emergency and non-emergency calls. More than 80 percent of fires occur at home, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), so it’s important to plan for how to prevent and respond to them. In observance of Fire Prevention Week Oct. 6-12, consider the following tips to help prevent and prepare for a fire.
Outside the home: Make sure the surroundings around your home have been cleared of flammable materials like dried plants, firewood and propane tanks, and the I.I.I. advises that entrances are well-marked to help firefighters to enter easily.
The I.I.I. also urges homeowners to ensure that their buildings are constructed of fire-resistant materials. These include shingles or tin for roofing; and brick, stone or logs for exterior walls, according to a Home Ignition Zone Self-Assessment for Homeowners.
Alert and response systems: Smoke alarms, fire extinguishers and home sprinkler systems can help save lives, the NFPA says. Smoke alarms are available for purchase at local hardware and grocery stores, or through the Atlanta Smoke Alarm Program. To learn more about the program, call (404) 546-2733 or visit your local fire station.
Additionally, the I.I.I. says that professionally-installed lightning protection systems like lightning rods and surge protectors can also be helpful in preventing fires.
In the kitchen: About 40 percent of fires at home start in the kitchen, according to the NFPA. The NFPA offers some great suggestions on maintaining kitchens that are accessible and safe, including proper lighting and accessible cabinets. In addition, they offer a cooking safety tips sheet that focuses on properly attending to food being prepared using the stovetop or oven.
For children, the NFPA offers Sparky’s “Kitchen Rules,” a song about safe behavior in the kitchen. (Sample lyrics: “Kitchen rules are your safety tools / When you listen in the kitchen, then the kitchen rules!”). Additionally a Kitchen Safety Checklist featuring Sparky the fire dog helps parents teach their children about how to avoid getting burned or starting fires.
Make an Escape Plan: The NFPA says that many fires in the home can leave you with less than two minutes to escape, so it’s important to understand the best escape routes from your home and practice several drills with your family. Their easy-to-use Home Fire Escape Plan PDF can help –tips include finding at least two escape routes from every room, designating a meeting place outside and practicing your family’s fire escape drill.
“Get Outside and Stay Outside” is another kids’ song from the NFPA. Its lyrics emphasize the importance of escaping during a fire: “Come up with a plan, know where to be / Away from the heat, in front of the street.”
Catalog Your Possessions: In addition to educating your family, planning escape routes and building a kit, protecting your possessions is next on the list for fire preparedness. A home inventory helps document your valuables in case they’re lost in a fire. A digital tool can store details about your possessions, such as photos and receipts, and help you categorize them by room. A typical homeowners insurance policy includes coverage for losses due to fire. An update-to-date home inventory can help facilitate the claim process following a fire, according to the I.I.I.
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Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and it’s hard to not get caught up in the flood of red and pink hearts and Cupid’s arrows in flight. When my husband and I first started dating, I had all sorts of ideas about what would await me on Feb. 14—an exotic trip, fancy dinner and myself dripping in brand-new diamonds. But reality sunk in as I realized that neither of us had the funds or free time to search out such extravagant gifts. Here are a few ways I learned to manage my expectations for Valentine’s Day as our relationship matured:
The film industry is saturated with sweeping gestures—blaring a boombox outside a bedroom window, public serenades from football stadium bleachers, scaling a fire escape to declare undying love—all of which look beautiful on the big screen but aren’t something you’d encounter in everyday life. Looking to chick flicks for clues about what your significant other might surprise you with this Valentine’s Day will likely leave you disappointed. Instead, try focusing on the little things he or she does day-to-day to show their love.
Make it Meaningful
Classic Valentine’s Day gifts like diamond jewelry, rose bouquets and couture perfume can add up quickly—and while they’re nice to look at, don’t always convey the importance of your relationship as well as less expensive gifts can. In lieu of something fancy, suggest that you each create a homemade gift, such as a photo album of your favorite pictures together or a personalized coupon book.
A few years ago, my husband (then-boyfriend) and I celebrated the occasion by recreating our first date at home—he made a simplified version of the dinner we ate at an Italian bistro and rented a DVD of the movie we saw in the theater. You may also want to consider combining efforts to splurge on an experience you can share, such as a couples cooking class or day trip to a nearby park.
Say it Simply
Last year, we scrapped gifts altogether and each used the hour we would have spent shopping to write a list of things we love about the other person. This was so much fun—and gave me a chance to really think back on the wonderful memories we’ve shared through the years. Then, we read our lists aloud during a cozy dinner at home. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect present—and it didn’t cost us a penny.
Sometimes, less truly is more. By shifting the focus from what your loved one will bring you this Valentine’s Day to what they bring to your life every day, you may find this to be your happiest couples holiday yet. And if he does go big for some diamond earrings, make sure those beauties are insured.
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