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Merrimac Fire Dept.
16 East Main Street 
Merrimac, MA 01860
(978) 346-8211 (business)
(978) 346-9227 (facsimile)
Frequency 158.955

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by Firefighter Michael McLeieer
Director of Public Fire & Life Safety Education
National Fire Academy & Massachusetts Firefighting Academy Instructor

With autumn fast approaching, more and more people in the area will be enjoying the change of the leaves and the cooler temperatures. Unfortunately, some autumn-related weather activities such as hiking and camping, turning the furnace back on, cleaning the chimney, and trick-or-treating do present their share of hazards. To help ensure everyone in the community enjoys a safe autumn, I would like to offer the following tips and suggest you post them where they are likely to be seen by your family members and co-workers.

Chimney maintenance is vital to your family’s safety.

  • Rather than buying a mask, use makeup to decorate children. That way, they can see more easily.
  • If your kids go trick-or-treating after dusk, make sure they have a flashlight and are wearing retro reflective material. Dress children in warm, light colored clothing so that they may be easily seen when crossing the street.
  • Do not purchase Halloween costumes and other items, which are not marked “Flameproof” or “Flame-Retardant”.
  • Remind children to skip houses that are not well-lit.
  • Check candy before allowing kids to eat it.
  • Avoid tricks that could cause bodily injury, destroy property, or cause a fire.

As you take in the fall’s beautiful scenery, think ahead, be prepared, and stay safe.

  • Check the weather forecast before heading outdoors for a hike. It is not safe to hike when thunderstorms or heavy snowfall is expected.
  • Carry drinking water. Don’t drink from streams, springs, or lakes without first properly treating the water.
  • Observe wildlife from a safe distance. Don’t try and get too close to wild animals.
  • Stay on the trail – if you leave it, you may get lost.
  • To help prevent food poisoning, keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Don’t store perishable foods in a hot car.
  • Clean all surfaces and utensils that come into contact with raw meat or meat juices before re-using them.
  • Wash hands frequently when preparing food, and before serving and eating.
  • Keep kids away from grills and lighter fluid, and keep grills away from anything that can burn.
  • Be aware of tiny deer ticks that carry Lyme disease and know which symptoms to watch out for. When in a potentially infested area, apply insect repellant, wear light-colored, long sleeved-shirts, pants and socks.
  • Do not build a fire near tree trunks, fallen trees, or over hanging branches.
  • When extinguishing a campfire, let it die down, then break up the coals or logs, spread the pieces, soak them with water, and then cover the area with dirt or sand.

Yard work does not end simply because summer is over. Here are some safety tips for performing autumn tasks around your home.

  • When lifting heavy bags or mulch, use a wheelbarrow when possible, and remember to lift with your legs, not with your back.
  • Be careful when pruning. Pruning from a ladder is especially dangerous.
  • To avoid blisters when doing yard work, wear gloves.
  • If you are doing a lot of raking, try an ergonomic rake, which can be found at most hardware stores and garden centers.

Parents must do some homework to keep their kids healthy and safe. Don’t let safety “fall” by the wayside.

  • Walk and ride to school safely. Obey traffic lights and signals, walk only in crosswalks, and listen to the crossing guard.
  • If your kids bike to school, be sure they wear an approved & properly fitting helmet.
  • If possible, always walk your child to the bus stop and pick them up as well.
  • Keep backpacks light – a child’s backpack should only be 5 to 10 percent of his or her body weight, according to the American Chiropractic Association.
  • A backpack with wheels is easy to maneuver and reduces back stress. If your child does choose to wear a backpack, utilize both straps. Slinging the backpack over one shoulder may cause spinal curvature.

Watch out for family pets as you prepare for the cold, festive days of fall.

  • Many brands of antifreeze are highly toxic. Store new and used antifreeze in a sealed container.
  • Chocolate is a special treat for nearly all humans during Halloween and Thanksgiving, but it is toxic to dogs, cats, and birds.
  • Holiday meals can be hazardous to pets. Chicken and turkey bones can get stuck and pierce the digestive tract. Rich foods can cause pancreatitis or bloating.
  • Indoor pets not acclimated to winter temperatures should not be outside in cold weather for long periods. Outdoor pets can withstand fairly cold temperatures, but make sure they have proper shelter from wind and rain, and provide them with good bedding. Frostbite is a winter hazard to pets.

It’s Fire Prevention Week – October 3-9, 2004. “Test Your Smoke Alarms”. “Fall” back on Fire & Life Safety.

  • Develop & practice an escape plan.
  • Select a family meeting place once outside (for example a neighbors house, mailbox or tree away from the house).
  • Roughly 70% of home fire deaths result from fires in homes without working smoke alarms. Place working smoke alarms on every level of your home. If you sleep with your bedroom doors closed, also have working smoke alarms inside each sleeping area.
  • Change your smoke alarm batteries twice a year. (Use the old smoke alarm batteries in toys or other non-life safety devices).
  • Test alarms at least monthly or according to the manufacturer’s recommendation.
  • If you use candles, please make sure you leave a one-foot circle of safety. This is an area that is clear of anything that could come in contact with the flame and burn (curtains, tablecloths or paper).
  • Place a candle inside a sturdy metal, glass or ceramic container.
  • Keep your candles out of reach of children or pets. Many candles are knocked over by young children or careless pets.
  • Extinguish the candle before you leave the room. Unattended candles are a leading cause of many home fires.

Most important of all, remember to call 911
in the event of an emergency.