“I hate 99-cent stores.”
Lt. Patrick Shannon of the FDNY was holding up a white plastic box that plugs into a wall and turns one electrical wall outlet into four followed by some extension cords on Monday at a meeting of the 113th Precinct Community Council.
Shannon works in the FDNY’s Fire Safety Education division, and was invited to speak on common-sense tips to prevent household fires, and how to survive should one break out.
Shannon said multiple-outlet adapters — “We call them octopus outlets,” he said — can easily overload and overheat, especially cheaper, less well-made items.
“Then something sparks and you have a fire inside the wall,” he said.
Some multiple-outlet devices are fine, he said.
“But those are for recharging your iPhone and smaller items, not an air conditioner and other large appliances.”
Shannon’s most important advice is for people to have working smoke detectors and a plan of escape, particularly at night.
“That is when we have most of our fatalities, between 10 p.m. and about 7 a.m,” he said. “We don’t have a lot during the day, because people are awake and can get out.”
An escape plan should have a route that is clear of all that can impede a quick exit.
“You know your home,” he said.
Shannon gave away smoke detectors to all present, saying newer models can last 10 years — if they are functioning.
“How many times have you been cooking, there’s some smoke and you hear the beeps?” he asked. “Do you disconnect it? We don’t recommend that.”
And referring to a fire in the Bronx the previous weekend where 37 people were hurt after a child was playing with matches, he put a new twist on an old adage.
“Don’t tell your children not to play with matches or lighters,” he said. “Tell children not to touch them.”
He said candles and space heaters are discouraged, but that if they are used to not leave them unattended.
“And get a heater that if it is tipped over shuts off,” he added.
Shannon said every home should have a small fire extinguisher, but that people also must know how to use them.
“We use the acronym PASS,” he said. “Pull the pin. Aim. Squeeze the handle. Spread.”
Cooking fires, he said, can be stopped most easily right after they start.
“Make sure you have lids that fit your pots and pans,” Shannon said. “Just put the cover on and a fire will go right out.”
He then held up the old-fashioned box of baking soda, which he said everyone can have in their kitchen.
“Also keep your stove free of clutter, like paper towels,” he said.
He reminded people that burns can be avoided by keeping handles of pots and pans turned so they are not hanging off the stove where they could be knocked or jostled.
In a pop quiz for the best thing to put on a burn before receiving medical treatment, he said to eschew the old wives’ tale about putting butter on it.
“We recommend just cool water to cool it down,” he said.