Safety First

It’s not vacation-time in Minnesota without trips to the cabin “up north” or families crisscrossing the state taking in the sights. And there’s so much to do; the possibilities are endless.

The Minnesota Department of Revenue reports there are about 124,000 seasonal homes. Explore MN estimates 18 million people annually visit our state and regional parks, resorts, and recreation areas; one-third during the summer. (I believe those stats seeing the traffic jams of cars, boats, personal watercraft, motorcycles, campers, and motor homes on highways heading north from the Twin Cities on Fridays!)

The safety of your family is important to Brothers Fire & Security, which is why we want to make you aware of fire dangers on the road and on the water as the summer winds down and Labor Day weekend lies ahead. The keys are to be aware and prepared.

On the Road Again

The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) reports that from 2014-2016 an estimated 171,500 highway vehicle fires occurred annually in the U.S., resulting in an average of 345 deaths and 1,300 injuries each year. A higher number of vehicle fires from May through September (44 percent) are probably due to higher temperatures and increased vehicle use.

Sixty-two percent of highway vehicle fires and 36 percent of fatal fires originated in the engine, running gear or wheel area. Sixty percent of fatal vehicle fires were the result of a collision. Careless behavior or accidental actions accounted for 38 percent of vehicle fires.

To avoid becoming one of those statistics, here are some tips to make your on-the-road expedition safe.

  • What to have in the car:
    • First aid kit
    • Fire extinguisher that’s been charged AND people know how to use it
    • Extra water and non-perishable food
    • Emergency road flares
    • Flashlight and extra batteries
    • Rags
  • Preventing a vehicle fire:
    • Properly maintain your vehicle. According to the National Fire Protection Association, mechanical and electrical issues are the most common cause of car fires. I believe that the first destination on your road trip is a visit to a professional mechanic. Otherwise, have our vehicle checked if it begins running irregularly or is leaking any fluids. Also have preventative maintenance performed regularly.
    • Do not transport fuel (gas cans or propane tanks) in the passenger compartment. Transport gasoline in small amounts in a properly sealed gas can. Tightly seal and place them on a flat surface to make sure they stay upright. Keep windows open to stop fumes from building up if you must put gas cans or propane tanks inside your vehicle.
    • Avoid smoking in your vehicle.
  • When there’s smoke or fire coming from your vehicle, USFA outlines these emergency measures:
    • Pull over as quickly as you can where it is safe.
    • Once you have stopped, turn off the engine.
    • Get everyone out of the car.
    • Never return to a burning car.
    • Do not try to fight the fire yourself.
    • If you think there is a fire under the hood or trunk, do not open it. This could cause the fire to grow.
    • Move everyone at least 100 feet from the burning car and well away from traffic.
    • Call 911.

On the Water

Fire on a boat can be devastating and frightening. There is simply nowhere to go except to jump overboard. If an explosion occurs, the damage can be catastrophic. In 2017, the U.S. Coast Guard reported a total of 271 fires resulting in 118 injuries and three deaths.

Fire ranks fifth among all boat losses, according to the BoatUS Marine Insurance Program. The majority originate in the engine compartment where electrical, fuel and ignition sources have a high likelihood of coming together to cause a fire. More than 25 percent of the time, a boat burns when something else goes up in flames, such as the marina (70 percent), the storage facility, or someone else’s boat.

To enjoy all that Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes and 92,000 miles of rivers and streams have to offer, here are preventive ways to make your water recreation safe. You should know all of this, but others may not. Everyone needs a refresher course.

  • Have a fire extinguisher on onboard and make sure it works! People just assume it works, when in fact the extinguisher may not have been checked in years. Do those people onboard know how to use the extinguisher?
  • Make sure adequate life jackets are onboard and they fit everyone.
  • Inspect the wiring to make sure rodents haven’t chewed through it.
  • Is the gas line attached correctly?
  • Is the motor attached securely?
  • Are you familiar with the lake and the navigation where the shoals and rocky areas are located?
  • Observe changing wake restrictions.
  • Pay attention to weather and storm alerts, and get off the water immediately.
  • Don’t overload the boat with people or equipment.
  • Besides a fire, be prepared to respond and react during any emergency, such as medical, a swimmer in trouble, someone falls overboard, etc.
  • Make sure your insurance is current and adequate.

If a fire starts onboard, advises you to:

  • The first thing to do is stop the engine immediately!
  • Position your boat so that the wind blows the fire away from your boat. This will help prevent the fire from spreading and minimize smoke inhalation for you and your passengers.
  • If possible, separate the fuel source from the fire. For example, shut off the gas to the engine or disconnect the gas tank.
  • Grab your fire extinguisher and use the PASS method: Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep:
    • Pull the pin.
    • Aim the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
    • Squeeze the two levers together to engage the extinguisher.
    • Use a Sweeping motion while focusing on the base of the fire.
    • Continue using the extinguisher until the fire is completely out.
  • Use a distress signal, marine radio or cell phone to notify other boaters that you need help.

And there you have it: A concise refresher course on summer road and water safety. As a matter of fact, these tips apply year-round for fall foliage tours, Christmas trips, and spring fishing openers. Brothers Fire & Security hopes you, your family and friends have a safe and memorable summer and Labor Day weekend.

About Brothers Fire & Security

As one of the premier providers of fire and security solutions in the Upper Midwest, Brothers Fire & Security strives to build long-term, value-added relationships. We work with business owners and property management companies, as well as all types of public institutions to solve fire and security needs. By taking advantage of our integrated bundled services, many of our clients find that they can save 25-30% on their safety services, annual inspections and more. From a single location to franchises throughout the region and the country, our integrated approach saves our clients valuable time, money and stress. We provide fire protection systems, security systems, fire sprinkler systems, fire alarm systems, 24-7 monitoring, fire extinguishers, card access and kitchen hoods.