Basic Emergency Service Access Knowledge for Homeowners

The fire department is required to respond to a multitude of emergency situations in various types of occupancies. For the fire department to be able to provide effective fire fighting operations, they must be able to reach all structures by way of access roadways, streets, or driveways.

To assist developers and designers in meeting necessary access requirements for fire departments, we have the following recommendations.

Private Driveways- Designed for the use of occupants of no more than two single-family dwelling units. If the driveway is over 150 feet from a fire department access road we recommend that the driveways be at least 12 feet wide, with grades not to exceed 12%. The driveways should be designed with an all weather surface and able to support the weight of the fire truck. If the driveway has sharp curves the width should be increased. We also recommend that there be at least 4 feet of vegetation clearance on either side of the driveway. The recommended clear vertical height for emergency vehicles to access is 13 feet 6 inches.

Fire Department Access Roads- Any road or driveway greater than 150’ in length or any road or driveway required to allow fire apparatus to be located within 150’ of all portions of a facility or any portion of the exterior wall of the first story of the building measured by an approved route around the exterior of the building. Access roads are required to be a minimum of 20’ wide. This is a roadway that serves more than two single-family dwellings.

Address Numbers- You need to have your address posted on the home with numbers a minimum of 4 inches in height, and that are a different color than the background. If your home sits off the roadway you need to post your address at the street also to help the fire department locate you.

Gates- All gates need to be designed in a manner that would not impede the fire departments ability to access your residence. If you should have a question on what you could do to prevent access problems, please contact the local fire marshal.

Bridges- If your residence should require a bridge; it should be designed in accordance to AASHTO HB-7 standards. Most fire trucks weigh between 15-25 tons, and if the bridge is not adequately designed the fire truck could have an accident.

Points of interest- If your residence is going to be in a remote area or your driveway will not allow for fire apparatus to access your home in a timely fashion, you might want to consider a residential sprinkler system. A residential sprinkler will help you receive a discount on your insurance.

If a water system is available in your area, it would be best if you had a fire hydrant within 1000 feet of your residence. This allows you to receive the best insurance rating on your homeowners insurance, saving you money down the road.

10 Steps to improve fire safety in and around your home

1. Smoking and drinking are a lethal combination.

2. Smoking carelessness is a leading cause of fire. Be careful with smoking materials.

3. Remove all materials on or near your stove that could catch fire. These materials include paper, dish clothes, etc.

4. Remove electrical cords from under rugs and behind radiators. Never nail the cord to walls or molding.

5. Be careful with candles. Don't leave them unattended. Never sleep with candles burning.

6. Don't overload outlets and extension cords.

7. Move flammable liquids stored near stove or other heat source to a safe, distant location

8. Never put a portable space heater near drapes, furniture, bedding or other flammable materials.

9. Empty ashtrays into the toilet or wet down contents before discarding.

10. Test your smoke detectors (weekly) and replace batteries every time you change your clock at daylight savings time.

Carbon Monoxide: The Invisible Killer

Carbon Monoxide   Detector
Each year unintentional carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning claims hundreds of lives and sends thousands of people to the emergency room for treatment.

What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas. It is known as "the silent killer." Because it is impossible to see, taste, or smell the toxic fumes, CO can kill before you are aware it is in your home.

CO gas is produced by fuel-burning heating equipment, such as furnaces, wood stoves, fireplaces, kerosene heaters and motor vehicles.

Carbon monoxide poisonings usually occur in winter months when people use heating sources that may produce hazardous carbon monoxide levels. You can prevent this tragedy by preparing your home heating sources for winter, acting wisely in the event of a power outage and learning the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisonings.

Protect Yourself and Your Family from CO Poisoning

At lower levels of exposure, CO causes mild effects that are often mistaken for the flu. These symptoms include:

The effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on age, overall health, and the concentration and length of exposure.

Medical experts believe that unborn babies, infants, children, senior citizens, and people with heart or lung problems are at even greater risk for CO poisoning.

You can protect yourself and your family by following a few easy steps.

What Actions Do I Take if My Carbon Monoxide Alarm Goes Off?

What you need to do if your carbon monoxide alarm goes off depends on whether anyone is feeling ill or not.

If no one is feeling ill:

  1. Silence the alarm.
  2. Turn off all appliances and sources of combustion (i.e. furnace and fireplace).
  3. Ventilate the house with fresh air by opening doors and windows.
  4. Call a qualified professional to investigate the source of the possible CO buildup.

If illness is a factor:

  1. Evacuate all occupants immediately.
  2. Determine how many occupants are ill and determine their symptoms.
  3. Call your local emergency number and when relaying information to the dispatcher, include the number of people feeling ill.
  4. Do not re-enter the home without the approval of a fire department representative.
  5. Call a qualified professional to repair the source of the CO.

Gas Grill Safety Tips

Liquid petroleum (LP) gas or propane, used in gas grills, is highly flammable. Each year about 30 people are injured as a result of gas grill fires and explosions. Many of these fires and explosions occur when consumers first use a grill that has been left idle for a period of time or just after refilling and reattaching the grill's gas container. To reduce the risk of fire or explosion, consumers should routinely perform the following safety checks:

· Check the tubes that lead into the burner for any blockage from insects, spiders, or food grease. Use a pipe cleaner or wire to clear blockage and push it through to the main part of the burner.
· Check grill hoses for cracking, brittleness, holes, and leaks. Make sure there are no sharp bends in the hose or tubing.
· Move gas hoses as far away as possible from hot surfaces and dripping hot grease. If you can't move the hoses, install a heat shield to protect them.
· Replace scratched or nicked connectors, which can eventually leak gas.
· Check for gas leaks, following the manufacturer's instructions, if you smell gas or when you reconnect the grill to the LP gas container. If you detect a leak, immediately turn off the gas and don't attempt to light the grill until the leak is fixed.
· Keep lighted cigarettes, matches, or open flames away from a leaking grill.
· Never use a grill indoors. Use the grill at least 10 feet away from your house or any building. Do not use the grill in a garage, breezeway, carport, porch, or under a surface that can catch fire.
· Do not attempt to repair the tank valve or the appliance yourself. See an LP gas dealer or a qualified appliance repair person.
· Always follow the manufacturer's instructions that accompany the grill.

Consumers should use caution when storing LP gas containers. Always keep containers upright. Never store a spare gas container under or near the grill or indoors. Never store or use flammable liquids, like gasoline, near the grill. 

To avoid accidents while transporting LP gas containers, consumers should transport the container in a secure, upright position. Never keep a filled container in a hot car or car trunk. Heat will cause the gas pressure to increase, which may open the relief valve and allow gas to escape.

Consumers should use extreme caution and always follow manufacturer's instructions when connecting or disconnecting LP gas containers. 

Grills manufactured after October 1, 1995, are required to have three additional safety features to eliminate leak hazards: a device to limit the flow of gas in the event of hose rupture; a mechanism to shut-off the grill; and a feature to prevent the flow of gas if the connection between the tank and the grill is not leak proof. Consumers should consider purchasing grills that have these safety features.  

Charcoal Grill Safety Tips

Charcoal produces carbon monoxide (CO) when it is burned. CO is a colorless, odorless gas that can accumulate to toxic levels in closed environments. Each year about 30 people die and 100 are injured as a result of CO fumes from charcoal grills and hibachis used inside.

To reduce these CO poisonings, CPSC is offering the following safety tips:

· Never burn charcoal inside of homes, vehicles, tents, or campers. Charcoal should never be used indoors, even if ventilation is provided.
· Since charcoal produces CO fumes until the charcoal is completely extinguished, do not store the grill indoors with freshly used coals.

In April 1996, CPSC voted to revise the label on charcoal packaging to more explicitly warn consumers of the deadly CO gas that is released when charcoal is burned in a closed environment. The new label reads, "WARNING...CARBON MONOXIDE HAZARD...Burning charcoal inside can kill you. It gives off carbon monoxide, which has no odor. NEVER burn charcoal inside homes, vehicles or tents." The new label also conveys the written warning visually with drawings of grills inside a home, tent, and vehicle. The drawings are enclosed in a circle with an "X" through it. While the new label requirement will not become mandatory until the end of the year, many charcoal manufacturers have already started using the new labels on charcoal packaging. 

Tips Provided by:

Winter Home Safety Tips

More than one-third of Americans use fireplaces, wood stoves and other fuel-fired appliances as primary heat sources in their homes. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the fire risks when heating with wood and solid fuels.

Heating fires account for 36% of residential home fires in rural areas every year. Often these fires are due to creosote buildup in chimneys and stovepipes. All home heating systems require regular maintenance to function safely and efficiently.

The United States Fire Administration (USFA) encourages you to practice the following fire safety steps to keep those home fires safely burning. Remember, fire safety is your personal responsibility ...Fire Stops With You!

Keep Fireplaces and Wood Stoves Clean
Have your chimney or wood stove inspected and cleaned annually by a certified chimney specialist.
Clear the area around the hearth of debris, decorations and flammable materials.
Always use a metal mesh screen with fireplaces. Leave glass doors open while burning a fire.
Install stovepipe thermometers to help monitor flue temperatures.
Keep air inlets on wood stoves open, and never restrict air supply to fireplaces. Otherwise you may cause creosote buildup that could lead to a chimney fire.
Use fire-resistant materials on walls around wood stoves.
Safely Burn Fuels
Never use flammable liquids to start a fire.
Use only seasoned hardwood. Soft, moist wood accelerates creosote buildup.
Build small fires that burn completely and produce less smoke.
Never burn cardboard boxes, trash or debris in your fireplace or wood stove.
When building a fire, place logs at the rear of the fireplace on an adequate supporting grate.
Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended. Extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving the house.
Soak hot ashes in water and place them in a metal container outside your home.
Protect the Outside of Your Home
Stack firewood outdoors at least 30 feet away from your home.
Keep the roof clear of leaves, pine needles and other debris.
Cover the chimney with a mesh screen spark arrester.
Remove branches hanging above the chimney, flues or vents.
Protect the Inside of Your Home
Install smoke alarms on every level of your home. Test them monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Consider installing the new long life smoke alarms.
Provide proper venting systems for all heating equipment.
Extend all vent pipes at least three feet above the roof.

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Health & Safety Links

American Heart Association
7272 Greenville Avenue
Dallas, TX 75231
Toll-Free: 800-AHA-USA-1
(800) 242-8721
American College
of Cardiology—Heart House
9111 Old Georgetown Road
Bethesda, MD 20814-1699
Toll-Free: (800) 253-4636, ext. 694
(301) 897-5400
American Council on Exercise
4851 Paramount Drive
San Diego, CA 92123
Toll-Free: (800) 825-3636
American Dietetic Association
120 South Riverside Plaza
Suite 2000
Chicago, IL 60606-6995
Toll-Free: (800) 877-1600
American Red Cross
8111 Gatehouse Road
Falls Church, VA 22042
(703) 206-7738
Centers for Disease
Control & Prevention
Health Program
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30333
(404) 639-3311 or
(404) 639-3312 (TTY)
Department of Health
& Human Services
HFE-88, 5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville, MD 20857
Toll-Free: (800) 532-4440
National Center
for Public Safet y Fitness
PE Building, Room 202
M.S. 1F6, George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030-4444
(703) 993-2071
National Heart,
Lung & Blood Institute
Building 31, Room 5A52
31 Center Drive MSC 2486
Bethesda, MD 20892
(301) 592-8573 or
(240) 629-3255 (TTY)
National Volunteer Fire Council
1050 17th Street, NW
Suite 490
Washington, DC 20036
Toll-Free: 888-ASK-NVFC
(202) 887-5700
National Institute for Occupational
Health and Safety
Toll-Free: (800) 35-NIOSH
The President’s
Council on Physical Fitness
Department W
200 Independence Ave., SW
Room 738-H
Washington, DC 20201-0004
(202) 690-9000
United States Fire
Federal Emergency
Management Agency/DHS
16825 South Seton Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
Toll-Free: (800) 238-3358
101 North Wacker Drive
Chicago, IL 60606-7386
(312) 416-0116
For more information about
how to stop smoking, visit
the Virtual Office of the U.S.
Surgeon General on the web at
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