Chatham Emergency Services Update

By Hunter Marr - HMarr@chathames.org
Chief, Skidaway Division

Working from home?

It has now been more than two years since the outbreak of COVID-19 and the start of the pandemic around the world. Not that anyone needs reminding, but the pandemic has altered the way in which we do pretty much everything. One of the biggest changes that has affected the workplace is that a number of employees now are working from home. For some companies, this is a temporary fix, though others are looking into making this a permanent change.

This change has altered the statistics of fires across North America. Allstate has reported a 51 percent increase in claims for residentials fires, which are caused by cooking, equipment, or smoking. Furthermore, preliminary data from January shows a big spike in claims, with the highest number of residential fire claims for that month in the past three years.

A more troubling trend is the alarming increase in the number of fatalities caused by these residential fires. In 2020, there was a 30 percent increase in fatalities compared to the previous year. This trend seems to be continuing, with an increase in fatalities in 2021. While research is ongoing, the initial indicators point towards people being home more often and the increased fuel load of modern furniture.

There are a few simple safety tips that can help mitigate fire risks. The first tip is simple: Have working smoke detectors. These detectors should be located on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and work areas. Please check the back of your smoke detector and you will see the manufactured date. If the year is before 2012, it needs to be replaced. Smoke detectors have an operating life of only 10 years.

The second tip is to have an evacuation plan. Fire drills are not only for commercial office buildings and schools. If a fire starts in different locations of your house, how do you plan to get out? It is a lot easier to ask that question before you are trying to figure it out in a life threating situation.

Finally, do not create a fire risk by overloading outlets with equipment and daisy chained surge protectors. This can overload the power circuits in your house and cause them to catch fire. Most standard household outlets are designed to provide 120 volts and 15 amps of power. If you connect 20 amps worth of power draw to that outlet, it will drastically increase the heat of the outlet, electrical wires, and circuit breaker.

Hopefully, these simple tips can help lower the risk of fires on our island. In the end, staying alert and aware are your greatest defenses for preventing a catastrophic event.