Fire extinguishers make your home safer

Before there’s a fire, make sure every adult in your house knows where fire extinguishers are, and how to use them.

Here comes barbecue season!

But there are potential fire sources in the home all year, including kitchen stoves, gas appliances, and candles.

Vashon Island Fire & Rescue advises us to have one or more ABC-type fire extinguishers, ideally one on each level of the home, as well as one, each, near the exits of the kitchen and in the garage. Here are some more fire extinguisher tips:

  • Before there’s ever a fire, make sure every adult in your house knows where fire extinguishers are, and how to use them.
  • Keep fire extinguishers clearly visible, not hidden behind curtains or in a closet. Check them at least yearly, to make sure the dial shows the arrow still in the green zone.
  • If there’s a fire, call 9-1-1 immediately, in case the fire becomes too big to suppress. Even after you have gotten the fire under control, firefighters can make sure the fire is completely extinguished and not lurking in the walls. Children should not use fire extinguishers; instead, they should be taught to exit the building quickly and call 9-1-1.
  • If there’s smoke, get low and leave the building. Smoke can kill.

In a Vashon Facebook group, someone recently asked about local services to recharge home fire extinguishers. Here’s what you need to know about that:

  • Fire departments in Washington state don’t offer recharge services. This service is provided by private companies.
  • The most affordable residential fire extinguishers are disposable; rechargeable fire extinguishers generally cost more. Check the recharge compliance and other manufacturer information on your fire extinguisher to learn more.
  • When your disposable fire extinguisher has reached its expiration date or has lost its charge, it should be disposed of safely at a hazardous waste collection event. Extinguisher contents should not be allowed to run into storm drains or groundwater. For more information, go here, and here.

Are you ready for summer?

For many of us, Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial beginning of summer, inspiring us to enjoy more outdoor activities and catch up on chores. Here’s one more: do a 1-2-3 quick check on your preparedness supplies.

  • Check containers of emergency food to make sure they are intact from pests and still look edible. (Tip: expiration dates impact flavor more than safety; for most shelf-stable foods, check here). Add a few new foods or treats, and swap some foods if your tastes have changed.
  • Use old stored water to irrigate the garden, then refill water containers. Mark the date on them with a waterproof marker and masking tape, so you’ll know when to change them again. For bonus points, print information on how to purify water, and store the instructions along with purification supplies. For more information, visit here.
  • Test flashlights and headlamps, put in fresh batteries, and store some extra batteries with each device. Safely dispose of old batteries at a hardware store, at a hazardous materials collection event, or via a recycling subscription service.

Bird Flu and You: What to know and what to do

News media coverage is increasing about how avian (bird) flu from the virus H5N1 has crossed over from wild birds to poultry, minks, and more recently dairy cows and humans.

Human infections are uncommon (only three confirmed cases in the U.S. since 2022) but have occurred sporadically in many countries. Although the risk to humans is currently low, experts are tracking the geographic spread of the disease and working to understand how the virus is evolving.

Here’s what we know so far:

  • H5N1 is not a new disease. Scientists have been studying it for 25 years.
  • A vaccine is under development.
  • Bird flu is rare in humans; there are no reports of it spreading from person to person.
  • To date, 36 infected cow herds have been identified across nine states. Idaho is the closest to us.
  • Unpasteurized milk and dairy products and undercooked poultry and eggs may contain the live H5N1 virus. Pasteurized dairy products, meats and eggs cooked to 165°F are safe to eat.
  • Symptoms of bird flu in humans are similar to other kinds of flu: fever, chills, cough, and runny nose. Red eyes were the only symptom for a farmer who got sick recently. Many cases may be asymptomatic. If a person is diagnosed, antiviral drugs may help.
  • Pets and backyard flocks can get sick, especially if they interact with sick or dead birds and their droppings. Some cats in Texas got sick from drinking raw milk from affected cows; half of them died.
  • People who don’t work with livestock, poultry, or wild birds are at low risk.

How to stay safer:

  • Avoid consuming raw (unpasteurized) dairy products, which increases the risk of contracting H5N1. Pasteurized milk and dairy products have been tested and found safe to consume. Avoid eating undercooked eggs, poultry, and meats.
  • The same actions that have helped us stay safer from COVID and seasonal flu can also reduce our risk of spreading bird flu: wearing masks and gloves in risky situations, washing hands frequently, covering our sneezes, and maintaining ventilation or distance.
  • Avoid handling sick or dead birds, and keep pets away from dead or sick birds and other sick animals, including their feces.
  • People who work with livestock, poultry, and/or wild birds should follow USDA and CDC guidelines to keep their animals healthy and avoid getting infected.

Read more here.