Hint of fall also hint for safety

This is the time of year many in Southwest Georgia long for — the first indication that triple-digit heat may be behind us for a few months.

By most of the nation’s standards, the past few days have been anything but fallish. In an area where a 92-degree breeze is considered summer relief, though, lows in the 50s and highs nudging past 80 are welcome respite.

Autumn is in the air, as you can tell from glancing at our entertainment calendar today in SouthView. Festivals and events are cranking up, and October is widely known as the most popular month for special observances and harvest-related festivals as the green of summer gives way to the red, gold, orange and brown of autumn, which has been here a week and a half already.

And while the lows have been far from freezing, they have prompted some to look at turning back on heating sources. And that means it’s a good time remind folks about fire safety, an issue that comes into play this time of year.

This year, Fire Prevention Week is scheduled for next week to do just that — remind everyone that fire and heat should be respected and not neglected. Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner Ralph Hudgens has announced that the theme for this year’s fire safety awareness effort is “Protect Your Family from Fire.”

Hudgens’ office and fire personnel around the state will be focusing on preventing the leading causes of home fires — cooking, heating and electrical equipment. They’ll also remind people about the dangers of candles and smoking.

In 2009, according to Hudgens’ office, 2,565 people died in home fires nationwide. Officials say most of those deaths would have been preventable had safety measures been taken before the blazes broke out.

These precautions are simple, but potentially lifesaving — having working smoke alarms; having a home fire escape plan; keeping things that can burn away from the stove, and always turning off space heaters before going to bed.

One of the biggest precautions is also one of the cheapest — ensuring that your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are powered up. “Be sure to change the battery in your smoke detector often,” Hudgens said. “Remember, fire is a dangerous opponent, but by anticipating the hazards, you are much less likely to be one of the nearly 13,000 people injured nationally in home fires each year.”

Hudgens has a few other fire safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn the stove off.

  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace with a fire screen, wood stove or portable space heater.

  • Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.

  • Replace or repair damaged or loose electrical cords.

  • If you smoke, smoke outside.

  • Use deep, wide ashtrays on a sturdy table.

  • Blow out all candles when you leave the room or go to bed. Avoid the use of candles in the bedroom and other areas where people may fall asleep.

Preparation and exercising common sense can go along way toward protecting your loved ones from a preventable disaster during what should be an enjoyable holiday season.