Chief Anthony Verley has been with the Teaneck Fire Department for 29 years. This translates into 29 years of overseeing the four fire stations and six square miles that constitute our Teaneck community. Over the span of these years, he has responded to many holiday-related calls resulting from our use of special cooking apparatus as well as exposed candles. Leonard Hanauer has served as a firefighter with the Department for the past six years. As a Sabbath observer, he is very familiar with the possible fire-related issues that can arise over the Yomim Tovim. They feel strongly that the community should be reminded of crucial fire safety precautions they should be taking as we enter the holiday season.
In recent years, there has been a significant increase in carbon monoxide–related incidents during the holiday season. Chief Verley explained, “This rise is a result of better insulated windows that are being installed into the homes in our area that are new constructions or that are going through extensive renovations. The new windows do not offer sufficient ventilation and air circulation needed to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Now, residents must intentionally provide air space in their homes near lit candles and working ovens and stoves.”
When situating candles in the home, the area must be clear of flammable materials such as curtains, window shades and other fire-hazardous materials. Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors must be inspected and batteries updated before the holidays.
In collaboration and agreement with the local rabbis in the community, Captain Verley advises Teaneck residents to “Call for help immediately when a carbon monoxide detector goes off or a fire incident occurs. Contact the fire department quickly and directly. We urge the community to be proactive so that we can all enjoy a safe and uneventful holiday season.”
Below is a list of recommendations issued by the Teaneck Fire Department for our serious consideration and adherence. There will be an additional list of precautions published in The Link before Succot.
Fire Safety for Jewish Observances
The Sabbath and Jewish holidays are a time of family gatherings, celebrated with special foods, songs and customs. Many holy days and observances, as well as the weekly Sabbath, are a time for traditional cooking and candle rituals. However, without safety precautions, these customary religious observances may increase the risk for fires and fire-related injuries
Preparing the Kitchen and Cooking
Fifty percent of all apartment fires and one-quarter of the fires in private homes start in the kitchen. Most home cooking fires involve the stovetop portion of the range. One-third of these fires result from unattended cooking.
The majority of fires and burns can be prevented during food preparation by taking safety precautions. Follow these precautions when preparing the kitchen and cooking, especially for the Sabbath and holiday meals when there is increased activity in the kitchen:
Stay in the kitchen—don’t leave cooking food unattended.
Wear tighter or snug-fitting sleeves. (Loose sleeves are more likely to catch on fire or get caught on pot handles.)
Take extra precaution when handling boiling water.
Cook at indicated temperature settings, rather than higher settings.
Don’t become distracted by attending to children or answering phone calls or doorbells.
Create a “kid-free zone” of at least three feet around your stove.
Keep area clear of towels, papers or anything that could burn.
Turn pot handles inward, facing the wall, to prevent burns caused by overturning or spills.
Have a pot lid and container of baking soda handy to smother a pan fire. DO NOT USE WATER.
Treat burns immediately with cool running water and seek medical attention.
This information was taken from the FDNY brochure “Fire Safety for Jewish Observances.”
Some further recommendations from the Teaneck Fire Department:
- Members of the Orthodox community should consider alternatives to leaving ovens and burners on for 24 hours in order to heat food, such as warming plates and crock pots.
- Any warming plates used should be manufactured after 1984 and be UL listed. Units should be plugged directly into an outlet, not via extension cords or power strips.
- Consider purchasing an electric stove, which does not give off carbon monoxide.
- Although they advise against leaving a burner on, for families that do, they recommend leaving two windows open on opposite ends of the house to create cross ventilation.
- MAKE SURE YOUR SMOKE AND CARBON MONOXIDE ALARMS WORK. Free smoke detectors are available from the Fire Prevention Bureau.
- Change your smoke detector alarm batteries twice a year when you change your clocks.
- Change your carbon monoxide detector alarm batteries yearly.
- Practice your home fire escape plan.
- Locate your closest Fire Alarm Box now in case you need it in the future.
For additional questions or to request a free fire inspection, contact the Teaneck Fire Prevention Bureau at 201-808-8080 ext. 5206.
WHEN IN DOUBT, CALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT IMMEDIATELY!
“We are in agreement that if it’s the feeling of the experts in the field that there is a potential danger and that people should contact the fire department when the carbon monoxide detector goes off, then people should do that, even on the Sabbath and holidays,” said Rabbi Michael Taubes of Congregation Zichron Mordechai, a past president of the Rabbinical Council of Bergen County.
By Pearl Markovitz