NASHVILLE - The State Fire Marshal's Office is asking Tennesseans to keep safety in mind as they say goodbye to 2013 and usher in the New Year Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
"No matter where you choose to celebrate the new year, be sure to do it safely," State Fire Marshal and Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak said in a news release. "Leave fireworks to the professionals and have emergency escape plans in place for not only your home, but for public venues as well."
While families celebrating the New Year with fireworks is a long-standing tradition, state officials point out thousands of people, mostly children and teens, are seriously injured each year through their use.
The State Fire Marshal's Office is strongly advising people attend organized public fireworks displays "where compliance with state-of- the-art fire codes offers a safer way to ring in a new year."
If consumer fireworks are legal where you live and you decide to set them off on your own, the state is urging you to follow these important safety tips:
• Never allow children to handle or ignite fireworks - this includes sparklers, which reach temperatures of 1200 degrees.
• Read and follow all warnings and instructions.
• Wear eye protection.
• Make sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.
• Never throw or point fireworks at people or animals.
• Only light fireworks outdoors on a smooth, flat surface away from homes, dry leaves and flammable materials.
• Never try to relight fireworks that have not fully functioned.
• Keep a bucket of water and a garden hose nearby in case of a malfunction or fire.
The Fire Marshal's Office also says make sure homes are equipped with working smoke alarms on every level, including the basement, and that everyone in the home knows the sound the alarm makes and what it signifies.
Have a home fire escape plan with two ways out of every room and a designated outside meeting place. Practice the plan with all members of your household both at night and during the day.
If attending a party at a public venue the State Fire Marshal's Office urges you to keep the following in mind:
• Take a good look. Does the building appear to be in a condition that makes you feel comfortable? Is the main entrance wide and does it open outward to allow easy exit? Is the outside area clear of materials stored against the building or blocking exits?
• Have a communication plan. Identify a relative or friend to contact in case of emergency and you are separated from family or friends.
• Plan a meeting place. Pick a meeting place outside to meet family or friends with whom you are attending the function. If there is an emergency, be sure to meet them there.
• Locate exits immediately. When you enter a building you should look for all available exits. Some exits may be in front and some in back of you. Be prepared to use your closest exit. You may not be able to use the main exit.
• Check for clear exit paths. Make sure aisles are wide enough and not obstructed by chairs or furniture. Check to make sure your exit door is not blocked or chained. If there are not at least two exits or exit paths are blocked, report the violation to management and leave the building if it is not immediately addressed. Call the local fire marshal to register a complaint.
• Make sure you feel safe: does the building appear to be overcrowded? Are there fire sources such as candles burning, cigarettes or cigars burning, pyrotechnics, or other heat sources that may make you feel unsafe? Are there safety systems in place such as alternative exits, sprinklers, and smoke alarms? Ask the management for clarification on your concerns. If you do not feel safe in the building, leave immediately.
• React immediately. If an alarm sounds, if you see smoke or fire or other unusual disturbance immediately exit the building in an orderly fashion.
• Get out, stay out: once you have escaped, stay out. Under no circumstances should you ever go back into a burning building. Let trained firefighters conduct rescue operations.