Dec 04

Stay warm this winter - safely!

Posted on December 4, 2017 at 3:28 PM by Andrea Mantakounis

SHFD reviews space heaters
By Fire Chief Chris Martin 

It seems like summer just ended and we went right into winter overnight; the cold weather is certainly here. The Sterling Heights Fire Department wants to make sure everyone stays safe this winter and would like to provide some heating safety tips. According to the National Fire Protection Association, heating malfunctions cause roughly 16% of fires in the home and accounted for 470 deaths and nearly 1,500 injuries from 2009-2013, so it is very important to consider these safety tips:

Keep anything that can burn, like drapes, decorations, furniture, or combust, 
like fuel, spray cans and paint, at least 3 feet away from all heating appliances, like furnaces, portable space heaters, fireplaces or wood stoves. Sparks can jump and cause fires wherever they land. Nearby material can act as kindling for the ember, fueling the fire.

This December, the Rossen Reports showed just how quickly a fire can spread in a demonstration with a space heater, blanket and sofa. In mere minutes, the room fills with thick, black smoke and the flames consume the area. 

Remember to turn off portable heaters when leaving the room or going to bed. Space heaters cause 25,000 home fires a year, and 6,000 emergency room visits, according to the Harvard University Environmental Health & Safety group. Never overload power strips or outlets, space heaters should be plugged directly into an outlet, do not use an extension cord. A homeowner in Ypsilanti Township damaged her home a couple of weeks ago using a space heater

Have a 3-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters. Make sure there is always a glass door or mesh screen in front of your fireplace. Be aware these gates can get hot and cause burns.

Never, ever use your oven or stove to heat your home. A couple in Burton, Michigan died last year in a house fire started by their stove that they were using for heat. Please do not try to heat your homes like this! 

Have your heating equipment and chimneys (if you burn wood) cleaned and inspected by a qualified professional each year. Build up can accumulate along the inside walls of the chimney creating potential for a dangerous chimney fire. 

Do not store gas powered equipment, or gasoline in your home. All it takes is a simple spark or pilot light from a water heater or furnace being ignited to start a fire. A malfunction while lighting a propane heater in this Michigan home caused it to quickly go up in flames, leaving the homeowners with nothing. 

Never leave burning candles unattended. Consider using battery-operated candles for decoration instead.

Heavy snowstorms and ice storms frequently cause power outages. When this occurs, the situation calls for extra vigilance in home safety. Be careful using generators; make sure they are well vented to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Like fire, carbon monoxide can be a deadly threat, the odorless, invisible gas claims the lives of about 400 people annually according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and sickens many, many more. Carbon monoxide poisoning is believed to have taken the lives of an entire family last year in Michigan.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can result from home appliances and heating systems, it can also come from poorly maintained chimneys. The chimney and chimney connector act as a furnace's exhaust system. If debris is blocking the chimney, carbon monoxide can accumulate inside the house, putting everyone inside at risk. Keep a gate on the top of your chimney to prevent debris from falling in or to prevent animals from building nests in the chimney. It is important to keep the gate cleared before you start a fire in the fireplace.

As with any season, your home must be equipped with properly functioning smoke detectors. They are the first line of defense in any house fire, regardless of the cause, and they save lives. Smoke detectors should be on each level of the home, including the basement. They should be in each bedroom and outside each sleeping area. The best smoke alarms are wired together so that they all go off if one goes off. All batteries in smoke detectors should be replaced at least once a year, regardless if they are hard wired. The exception is for new smoke alarms with non-replaceable 10-year batteries. All smoke detectors are only good for 10 years; please replace detectors that are over ten years old. Check the back of the smoke detector for the manufacture date, detectors manufactured before 1999 have a 4-5 serial number and no date printed, obviously these need to be replaced stat! 

Be safe and enjoy the winter!

Nov 22

Keep your holidays merry and bright and safe!

Posted on November 22, 2017 at 10:44 AM by Andrea Mantakounis

Credit Card Thief

People have a lot on their minds this time of year — presents to buy, meals to plan, trips to book. All the hustle and bustle of the holiday season can leave you, your wallet and your home vulnerable. These easy-to-follow tips can help keep this time of year merry and bright.

Money Safety

With the holidays fast approaching, this time of year has people spending like crazy both in stores and online.  Whether you are swiping a credit card or paying in cash, keep yourself and your bank accounts safe.

First, keep the amount of available cash you have at a minimum or separate it into different pockets or locations on or about your person. This way all of it is not lost if your purse or wallet is misplaced or stolen.

If you can go without carrying a purse or wallet, do so; they are the prime targets of criminals in crowded shopping areas, transportation terminals, bus stops, on buses and other rapid transit.

Credit cards offer convenience and security, however, be sure to keep track of all cards and keep receipts to compare to your monthly statement. If you usually only check your statement once a month, that gives a credit card thief 30 days to wreak havoc on your account. Check your statement as frequently as you can. Specifically, keep an eye out for suspicious, small amounts. Many thieves may test your card by making easy-to-overlook purchases first. For a very interesting read on how the mind of a credit card thief works, check out this article, “Secrets of a Former Credit Card Thief.”

Shopping Safety

While it may be less crowded and more convenient to shop during evening hours, there are also additional potential risks involved. You should park in areas that have adequate lighting, keeping in mind this time of year the sun sets around 5 p.m. Also, consider shopping with someone instead of going alone. Most importantly, and I can’t stress this enough, remain aware of your surroundings at all times. Just because there are people around does not mean that you are safe.  Always scan your immediate area and focus on your personal safety and the safety of those with you. Beware of strangers approaching you for any reason. At this time of year, con-artists may try various methods of distracting you with the intention of taking your money or belongings. Report suspicious people or activity to law enforcement immediately!

If possible, leave small children at home with a trusted babysitter. If you have to bring the little ones with you, teach them to stay close to you at all times, to go to a store clerk or security guard to ask for help if they get separated from you and to tell you immediately if a stranger is bothering them.  

Never allow children to make unaccompanied trips to the restroom or car. Make sure your child knows their full name, address and telephone number to give to the police or mall security.

When it’s time to head home, have your keys ready before getting to your car so you do not have to search for them while standing near it. However, don’t electronically unlock your vehicle until you are within close proximity of the vehicle and you can easily see it. This helps stop a thief from getting into the car and waiting to strike when you least expect it.

Keep a secure hold on your purse and shopping bags, do not put them down or on top of your car in order to open the door or trunk.

Home Safety

Before you head out of town, create an up-to-date home inventory including make, model, serial numbers, other detailed descriptions, and photographs of items of value (including jewelry). This inventory should be kept somewhere safe, out of the house. Valuable items, such as televisions, stereos, and computers should be inscribed with an identifying number unique to its owner, like the last four digits of your social security number, but do not use the entire number!

A vacant-looking house is a major vulnerability. At least two light timers should be set to turn the lights and TV on and off in a logical sequence when away for an extended time period to give the appearance that someone is home. Contact the Sterling Heights Police Department (586-446-2801) to request extra patrols of your residence while you are out of town. Let us know the dates you’ll be gone and if anyone has keys to your home. 

Piles of newspapers, packages and mail, and unshoveled driveways are telltale signs no one has been home. Make arrangements with a trusted neighbor or friend to pick up the items, clear the snow, or stop your delivery services.

From the entire Sterling Heights Police Department, we wish you a happy, healthy and safe holiday season!

Oct 17

Stay safe this Halloween!

Posted on October 17, 2017 at 12:13 PM by Andrea Mantakounis

Halloween Trick or Treaters

By Police Chief Dwojakowski 

Trick or treating should be one of the greatest adventures for kids! Imagination, creative ideas and costumes will be everywhere in the upcoming weeks as we prepare for Halloween in the city.  Unfortunately, some of the best parts of Halloween – from carving the pumpkin to going door to door can be the most dangerous. The Sterling Heights Police Department would like to share with you some safety tips to ensure your trick or treating experience is a good one.

Safety Tips for Trick or Treating:

-       Children should go out during daylight hours only, unless accompanied by a responsible adult.

-       Plan a safe route so parents know where their older kids will be at all times.  Set a time for their return home.  Utilize cell phones for communication and know the group they are trick or treating with.

-       Let your child know not to cut through back alleys and yards.  Make sure they know to stay in populated, well-lit areas.

-       Instruct children not to eat any treats until they get home and parents can examine them for any tampering.  Refrain from taking any homemade items or unwrapped candy.

-       Instruct children to never enter a home of a stranger or get into their car.

-       Carry flashlights, glow sticks or have reflective tape on their costumes.

-       Always travel in groups.

-       Pay attention to your surroundings and make sure it’s clear when crossing the street.

-       While driving to and from trick or treat locations, pay close attention to pedestrians and proceed with additional caution while utilizing any type motor vehicles (golf carts, mopeds, etc.)

Safety Tips for Costumes:

-       If possible, use face paint instead of using a mask.  Masks can cause overheating and can impair vision. 

-       Avoid costumes that are baggy to eliminate getting tripped up or caught on something.

-       Stay away from hard plastic props such as swords or wands.

-       Look for “Flame Resistant” labels on all costumes, masks, beards, etc.

-       Incorporate bright colors or reflective materials in your costumes to create greater visibility.

-       Wear good shoes that fit properly.

-       Secure hats and accessories to the costume so they don’t blow away or impair the child's ability to see.

-       Dress for the weather, in Michigan we all know how fast it can change!

The Sterling Heights Police Department hopes each and every one of you has a safe and Happy Halloween!