Thursday, March 21, 2019

Could Your Dryer Cause a Fire? Let's talk dryer fire facts.

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Over the last several weeks, MCFRS has responded to a number of clothes dryer-related fires. A lack of maintenance, buildup of lint, placing inappropriate items in the dryer and inadequate venting are frequently cited as contributing factors.
Fires can occur when lint builds up in the dryer or in the exhaust duct. Lint can block the flow of air, cause excessive heat build-up, and result in a fire in some dryers. Some important safety tips:

Clean behind the dryer, where lint can build up. Clean around your dryer to minimize the amount of lint accumulation. Keep the area around the dryer clean and free of clutter.

Don't leave a clothes dryer running if you leave the house or go to bed. 

Clean the lint screen/filter before or after drying each load of clothes. If clothing is still damp at the end of a typical drying cycle or drying requires longer times than normal, this may be a sign that the lint screen or the exhaust duct is blocked. 

Clean the dryer vent and exhaust duct annually. Check the outside dryer vent while the dryer is operating to make sure exhaust air is escaping. If it is not, the vent or the exhaust duct may be blocked. To remove a blockage in the exhaust path, it may be necessary to disconnect the exhaust duct from the dryer. Remember to reconnect the ducting to the dryer and outside vent before using the dryer again. MCFRS recommends having a qualified service technician clean the dryer vent and exhaust duct annually.

Replace plastic or foil, accordion-type ducting material with rigid or corrugated semi-rigid metal duct. Most manufacturers specify the use of a rigid or corrugated semi-rigid metal duct, which provides maximum airflow. The flexible plastic or foil type duct can more easily trap lint and is more susceptible to kinks or crushing, which can greatly reduce the airflow.

Take special care when drying clothes that have been soiled with volatile chemicals such as gasoline, cooking oils, cleaning agents, or finishing oils and stains. If possible, wash the clothing more than once to minimize the amount of volatile chemicals on the clothes and, preferably, hang the clothes to dry. 

There are several warning signs that dangerous lint buildup has occurred in your dryer and venting system, indicating that it needs a thorough cleaning: 
- Clothes take longer to dry or don't dry fully
- Clothes are hotter than normal at the end of the drying cycle
- Outside of dryer gets very hot
- Outside exhaust vent flapper does not open very much, indicating       low exhaust velocity
- Laundry room becomes more humid than usual
- Burnt smell is evident in the laundry room

Maintenance Tips:
- Inspect the venting system behind the dryer to ensure it is not damaged or restricted.
Make sure the outdoor vent covering opens when the dryer is on. 
- Replace coiled-wire foil or plastic venting with rigid, non-ribbed metal duct.
- Have gas-powered dryers inspected every year by a professional to inspect the dryer and the gas line connection. 
- Check regularly to make sure nests of small animals and insects are not blocking the outside vent.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Change Your Clocks - CHECK Your Smoke Alarms This Weekend

It's that time of year again when we "Spring Forward" and change clocks (unless your clocks do it automatically)! Here are our Top Eight Tips to remember when it comes to smoke alarms and fire safety this weekend:

1. It is indisputable that smoke alarms save lives. Smoke alarms are the best and least expensive way to provide an early warning system to alert you and your family to a potential fire emergency. Smoke alarms are designed to detect a fire in its early stages and alert people so they have time to safely escape.

2. Smoke alarms should be installed in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home.

3. For the best protection, smoke alarms should be interconnected. What does that mean? When one sounds they all sound alerting you to an emergency early on and giving you critical time to escape. New construction requirements have included hard- wired smoke alarms with battery back-ups since the 1980's. 

4. Nothing lasts forever - including smoke alarms. Smoke alarms become less reliable with time, primarily due to aging of their electronic components making them more susceptible to nuisance false alarms. Replace entire smoke alarm units every 10 years or sooner if they don't respond properly when tested. Why? The sensor wears out and may not activate in an emergency putting your family at risk. Always read the manufacturer’s recommendations as some models recommend replacement every 5-7 years.

5. Never (ever) paint over a smoke alarm. It will affect the operation of the smoke alarm, potentially disabling it.

6. Test your alarms once a month by pressing the test button.

7. Clean your smoke alarm once a month when you test it. Smoke alarms get clogged with dust build-up which may affect performance.

8. If your detector “chirps” it may be time to change the back-up battery in your hard-wired alarm. Since 2018, Maryland law has required all battery-only smoke alarms (permitted in homes built b/f 1975) to have a sealed,10-year long-life battery in the unit so any "chirping" in these units is likely signaling that you need to replace the smoke alarm with a new one. 
Today's home safety and security technology has evolved beyond smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Many families rely on household devices connected to the internet or smartphones to enhance safety and security. New technology can even notify you when the alarm is activated or if the battery is low. Take time this weekend to ensure your family has a fire safety plan. Practice it with a Home Fire Drill to ensure everyone knows what to do in an emergency.