Thursday, November 01, 2007

Barn Burner *A Public Service Announcement*

No, I'm not talking about the high-scoring hockey game variety.

While this is not a 'true' public service announcement I consider it such after the events which took place at The UNH Men's Hockey Blog Headquarters last night.

With November having already rolled around and October is traditionally fire prevention month, I hope you were paying attention, because last night the HQ of The UNH Men's Hockey Blog nearly went up in smoke.

Late last night, just after I had settled in to relax after perusing the webwaves for UNH Men's Hockey info, my reprieve was disturbed by the fire alarms in my house - what an awful, but life and property saving, cacophony (so make sure that you have fresh batteries in yours if they are not hardwired like ours). We quickly searched the house for the source but could smell no trace of smoke nor find any signs of fire. We continued to search for almost a minute, about which time a snap or sharp crack was heard but still no sign of danger other than what the alarms already knew and what we would discover with a shout of 'Fire!' from my wife approximately twenty seconds later.

Some may already recognize that that distinct snap was no less than an electrical short which our alarms had whiffed the mere early ions of almost a full two minutes before it burst into flames. The source - a small fish tank whose pump had malfunctioned, burned out and subsequently shorted out. By the time we found it flames had touched the wall which was nearby with a small shower of hot sparks and melted plastic and filled the interior of the small two and a half gallon tank. I pulled the dresser, upon which the tank sat, away from the wall in order to get the flames away from a wooden framed mirror and pictures above it and in order to access the power strip below and behind the dresser. I flipped the switch and unplugged the power strip. And then carefully removed the lid containing the electronics from the water at which point they vanished and then scooping everything up marched it outside and away from the house. This all took place in a matter of seconds as I yelled for my family to get out of the house and which left me following them out the door with the reeking, ruined tank. Having seen no other signs of a fire but fearing the worst I rushed back in to investigate but that seemed to be the extent of it - no sign of further smoke, burning or heat. For the sake of the rest of the animals in the house and the hopes of not having to spend the night elsewhere I began the process of ventilating the smoke and called the fire department - those guys are awesome. They came in accessed the situation and reassured us that there was no further danger in their professional opinion and much to our relief.

So, what have we learned. Try to never place any readily burnable materials near an electrical source or electrical device - had there been a calendar on the wall above it we would probably all still be alive but I would probably not be typing this from TUMHBG HQ right now. If a piece of electrical equipment malfunctions at all unplug it and bring it to a professional to repair. Our pump had stopped working a number of times during power outages but always seemed to work after being unplugged and refilled with water before restarting but it was not working well after the latest outage. If the equipment has outlived its expected lifetime, replace it. While our pump was not at this point age-wise it might have been due to its course of life but especially replace those power strips. Even a cheap one, as long as it is GFI (Ground Fault Interrupt) equipped should prevent the problem that we had. Ours had been around for 10 years, too long in my eyes now, and at some point had become ineffective - in our estimation, most likely from too many power surges where we live or possibly damage in moving over the years.

And finally, most importantly, just try to remember all of the fire safety tips that you hear. Keep your head. Safety of everyone in the house comes first. Everything else is secondary. Get a fire extinguisher!!! We are getting one today. While I was able to defuse the fire in this case my actions are not advisable and I fully understood that I risked being burned, electrocuted and possibly making the situation worse by doing so even though I have some training in electrical wiring and fire safety. Visit your fire house once a year during their BBQ's and open houses and such and be friendly to the men and women who are going to be dragging themselves out of their beds, literally, in the middle of the night to make sure that you and yours are safe. Not only are they almost always nice people but usually they have fire prevention and safety material on hand and are always willing to answer any questions you might have on the subject - speaking of which I will leave you with this link

Good Fire Prevention/Safety Tips
(it's meant for seniors but good for everyone)

And did I mention that the Volunteer Fire Department in my town roasts a real mean pig? Mmmnn.

Take care out there everyone.

TUMHBG signing off, as always,
Go 'Cats!

PS - I also want to let you all know that I will be a little preoccupied with fixing the damage over the next 24-48 hours in order to get HQ back to snuff but hope to be in full presence come game time tomorrow at 7pm when our Wildcats head to Matthews Arena to start our home-and-away, weekend series, against the Northeastern Huskies.


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