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What to do in case of fire

In Puerto Rico, between 20,000 and 14,000 fires happen each year, killing about 20 people and causing property losses estimated at $65 million. Around 80% of structural fires occur in homes, due to short circuits, children playing with matches and unattended kitchen utensils. Given these alarming statistics, we have become aware of the importance of fire prevention. That’s why we guide you on how to prevent and survive a fire in your home.

Eliminating or controlling potential risks:

  • Electrical Installations - Do not overload circuits or extension cords. Nor put cables and extension cords under rugs, or hang them in high traffic areas. Replace the cables that have no insulation. Place security guards in those receptacles within the reach of children. Use only three-hole grounded outlets. Never cut or delete the third prong on grounding plugs, extension cords or electrical appliances. All electrical installation or repairs should be performed by an expert electrician.
  • Electrical Appliances - When used, follow the manufacturer's safety instructions. Stay attentive to any unusual odor, overheating, short circuit or spark in these devices because they are signs that you should shut it down, get it repaired or replaced. While not using the computer, keep it off. If you'll be away from home for several days, disconnect the electricity in the circuit board of those goods and equipment not required to be on during your absence.
  • Smoking - Never smoke in bed, nor if you're dizzy, either by effects of any medication or consumption of alcoholic beverages. Use deep ashtrays and get used to extinguishing cigarette butts with water. Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children.
  • Stoves - Never leave the stove unattended when you are cooking, especially when the burner is in high temperature or you are frying food in a deep pot. Clean grease spills fast as they can easily cause fires. Do not cook at high temperatures for prolonged periods. When you're cooking, never use flammable materials or clothing with long or loose sleeves as it can easily ignite or catch on the handles of the utensils. If a gas leak occurs, do not use electrical appliances. Proceed to close the gas valve and open the windows. Vacate the place, and contact a qualified technician or the Fire Department.
  • Heat - Keep clothes, curtains and other potentially combustible items away to a distance not less than three feet of those devices that generate heat, such as ovens, stoves and heaters.
  • Liquefied gas tanks – Under no circumstances put tanks of liquefied gas in closed places, or exposed to being hit by vehicles as they pose a serious risk of explosion. Place them on a firm base, preferably concrete, and tie them to the wall with nylon string or chain.
  • Storage - Store paints, varnishes, solvents and other flammable material in a well-ventilated area, preferably outside the residence.
  • Candles - Place candles in a glass bowl before switching them on. Never pin them near fabric curtains, flammable objects or wooden walls. Do not use candles to repel mosquitoes indoors because they can cause poisoning and fires. Get used to blowing out the candles at bedtime or when leaving your home.

Measures to mitigate fires:

  • Smoke Detectors - Reduce by half the risk of dying in a fire in your home by installing smoke detectors in each bedroom, in the hallway to the bedrooms and on each floor of the home. Do not place them near the kitchen as they often can cause false activations. These smoke alarms are powered by electrical house current, with batteries or a combination of both, which allows operation even when there is no electricity. For security, we recommend installing smoke detectors operating with both electrical current and battery. Test detectors at least once a month and remove periodically with a vacuum the dust that accumulates in the grid that protects the alarm sensor. Follow the manufacturer's instructions when installing smoke detectors and replace every ten years.
  • Gas Detectors and Carbon Monoxide (CO) – Install gas detectors and carbon monoxide, as these are highly toxic and can cause death. The effects of this gas exposure vary from person to person, depending on age, health status, level of concentration and exposure time. Symptoms include headache, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue. CO alarms measure levels of the gas, and are designed to sound before a healthy adult would experience any of these symptoms. If the gas detector goes off, do not light matches; turn on telephones, electrical or battery goods. You must immediately close the gas tank valve, open windows and exit the home. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to install and maintain CO alarms.
  • Fire extinguishers - When used properly, fire extinguishers can save lives and prevent the destruction of property. You must have at least one fire extinguisher in your home and know how to use it. It is advisable to use ABC type fire extinguishers, or multipurpose fire fighting at home. This equipment must be in an accessible place, and stay fully charged, always ready for use. Before fighting a fire, no matter how small, you should call the Fire Department.
  • Evacuation Plan - Prepare an escape plan with your family members. Identify two possible ways out of each room, as well as the meeting place outside the home. Make special arrangements for children, the elderly and people with disabilities. Practice the escape plan twice a year, with different outputs and individuals involved.

Steps to follow in case of fire:

  • Test doors before opening them. Kneel down and see if they are hot, knocking on the door with the back of your hand. If the door is hot, go to the second exit. If it is cool, open it slowly and proceed with your exit plan.
  • Smoke contains poisonous gases and ascends same as heat. The air is cleaner near the floor. If you must exit through smoke, crawl quickly on your hands and knees, keeping your head 12 to 24 inches above the ground.
  • Get out quickly and go to the previously designated meeting place. Do not return home for any reason.
  • If you live in a multistory condominium, use the emergency stairs to leave the building, but never use the elevators.
  • Call the fire department from a neighbor's house.
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