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Fire safety measures can save your life

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By Debbie Shepherd

One structure fire was reported every 66 seconds in the U.S. in 2009, according to the National Fire Protection Association. To maintain a fire-safe home and keep your family safe this winter, follow these tips.
— If you are using kerosene heaters, be sure your heater is in good working condition. Clean off the carbon that may have built up around the exhaust parts.  Be sure the heater has an emergency shut off in case the heater gets tipped over.
Use only the fuel the manufacturer recommends and keep the kerosene in approved metal containers in well-ventilated areas outside of the house.
Never fill a heater while it is operating or is hot. Avoid overfilling and remember that cold fuel may expand in the tank as it warms up, causing overflow. Refuel outside in case of spillage.
Make sure young children stay away from space heaters.
— If you use a fuel-burning appliance like a kerosene heater anywhere in the house, make sure there is proper ventilation to prevent a buildup of deadly carbon monoxide.  This is especially important in closed rooms like bedrooms.  The heater fs owner fs manual should give instructions, or ask your local fire department.
— Choose UL-listed wood stoves.  Make sure the clearance from walls and other combustible material, including combustible floors, meets local building codes.  In some places this may be 36 inches, but there are rules about wall and floor materials.  Be sure to consult your county building inspector or local fire department.
— Annually have the chimney professionally inspected for creosote buildup and leaks and repair when necessary. This should not be taken lightly; your family fs safety depends on it.
— Keep a glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace opening to prevent embers or sparks from popping out on the floor. Store discarded ashes in a metal container and place outside away from the house.
— NEVER burn charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal can give off lethal amounts of carbon monoxide. Since carbon monoxide is odorless,  you could fall asleep and not wake up.
— Before you go to sleep, put out fireplace fire. Never close your damper with hot ashes in the fireplace. Hot ashes and embers give off lethal carbon monoxide just like charcoal.
— Get your furnaces regularly inspected. Change filters often. Ensure that all furnace controls and emergency shutoffs are working. Have qualified specialists repair your furnace.
— Inspect the walls and ceiling near the furnace and along the chimney line.  If the wall is hot or discolored, additional pipe insulation or clearance may be required.
— Keep trash and other combustibles away from any heating system.
— Never use a range or an oven as a supplemental heating device. They are not designed for this.  Gas ovens give off fumes, which over long periods of time can be toxic.
— Avoid using electrical space heaters in bathrooms or other areas where they may come in contact with water.
— If there is a fire hydrant near your home, help the fire department by keeping the hydrant clear of obstacles and in easy view.  Not only is this important in case of fire, but often is the law.
— Make sure every level of your home has a working smoke alarm with fresh batteries.
Plan and practice a home safety plan with your children. Include a meeting place outside of the house at a safe distance. Explain to children that smoke rises and they should stay low to the floor as they escape.
Source: Mark Purschwitz, Extension Safety Specialist

Freeing Your Closet From Clutter
Decluttering your closet is a liberating experience.  Life begins to feel more manageable and your clothing and shoes are better suited to who you are now.
If tackling all of the closets at once is to too daunting, set aside a firm two-hours each week and clear one room’s closet at a time.  
Start by getting four large boxes. Label them “keep,” “throw out,” “donate” and “not sure.”
If you are afraid you will throw out something mistakenly, use clear plastic bags and clearly label each. 
Be tough but give all family members a chance to decide what goes and what stays.
Start at the top shelf and work your way down. Take everything off the shelves. When everything is off the shelf, dust and wash the area.
Put the clothes you have not worn for a while but still like in the “not sure” area. 
Near the end of the two hours, ruthlessly get rid of as many items as you can. Getting rid of extra clothes allows your clothing staples to breathe in the closet instead of being packed in tight.  Think of the ironing time you will save.
As your “throw away” box or bag fills up, take it to the garbage can right away so you won’t be tempted to root through it again.  As the “donate” box or bag fills, put it in the trunk of your car.  The idea is to get the clutter out of your house for good.
When your closet is empty, clean the floor and walls. As you add clothes back to the closet, collect them in colors to save you time in the morning when you are getting dressed.  Use shoe racks or an over-the-door shoe container and sort the shoes according to color too.
Separate everyday clothes from work outfits.
Then promise yourself that if something goes in your closet, something else will go out.  If you follow this rule, you should never have to have another closet-cleaning marathon.
Source:  Rhonda Rex, Campbell County Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent.