The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has marked February as earthquake awareness month for the state. In the event of an earthquake, fire safety practices may change. Earthquakes can be experienced weekly in some parts of the state, so furthering awareness and educating on safety – even fire safety - is a must.
The U.S. Fire Administration has compiled a list of key fire safety practices to implement in the event of an earthquake. Whether you are in Missouri, the surrounding areas, or anywhere in the world that may experience an earthquake, be sure to keep these safety tips in mind.
Some Types of Fire Related Hazards Present During and After an Earthquake
• Appliances, furniture, and household products can shift, fall, and spill.
• Gas, chemical and electrical hazards may be present.
• Leaking gas lines, damaged or leaking gas propane containers, and leaking vehicle gas tanks could explode or ignite.
• Pools of water or even appliances can be electrically charged.
• Look for flammable liquids like gasoline, lighter fluid, and paint thinner that may have spilled.
• Thoroughly clean the spill and place containers in a well-ventilated area.
• Keep combustible liquids away from heat sources.
• If you can safely get to the main breaker or fuse box, turn off the power.
• Look for items that might have jarred loose during the earthquake.
• Appliances or power connectors could create a fire hazard.
• Assume all wires on the ground are electrically charged. This includes cable TV feeds.
• Look for and replace frayed or cracked extension and appliance cords, loose prongs, and plugs.
• Exposed outlets and wiring could present a fire and life safety hazard.
• Appliances that emit smoke or sparks should be repaired or replaced.
• Have a licensed electrician check your home for damage.
• Smell and listen for leaky gas connections. If you believe there is a gas leak, immediately leave the house and leave the door(s) open.
• Never strike a match. Any size flame can spark an explosion.
• Before turning the gas back on, have the gas system checked by a professional.
• Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines when using generators.
• Use a generator or other fuel-powered machines outside the home. CO fumes are odorless and can quickly overwhelm you indoors.
• Use the appropriate sized and type power cords to carry the electric load. Overloaded cords can overheat and cause fires.
• Never run cords under rugs or carpets where heat might build up or damage to a cord may go unnoticed.
• Never connect generators to another power source such as power lines. The reverse flow of electricity or ‘backfeed’ can electrocute an unsuspecting utility worker.
• Kerosene heaters may not be legal in your area and should only be used where approved by authorities.
• Do not use the kitchen oven range to heat your home. In addition to being a fire hazard, it can be a source of toxic fumes.
• Alternative heaters need their space. Keep anything combustible at least 3 feet away.
• Make sure your alternative heaters have ‘tip switches.’ These ‘tip switches’ are designed to automatically turn off the heater in the event they tip over.
• Only use the type of fuel recommended by the manufacturer and follow suggested guidelines.
• Never refill a space heater while it is operating or still hot.
• Refuel heaters only outdoors.
• Make sure wood stoves are properly installed, and at least 3 feet away from combustible materials. Ensure they have the proper floor support and adequate ventilation.
• Use a glass or metal screen in front of your fireplace to prevent sparks from igniting nearby carpets, furniture or other combustible items.
• Always use a flashlight - not a candle - for emergency lighting.
• Some smoke alarms may be dependent on your home’s electrical service and could be inoperative during a power outage. Check to see if your smoke alarm uses a back-up battery and install a new battery at least once a year.
• Smoke alarms should be installed on every level of your home.
• All smoke alarms should be tested monthly. All batteries should be replaced with new ones at least once a year.
• If there is a fire hydrant near your home, keep it clear of debris for easy access by the fire department.