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OTTUMWA — A group of service technicians filled an Indian Hills Community College classroom Tuesday as they learned how to handle fire hazards in normal life as well as the unique dangers of working in the trades industry.

This course was brought to IHCC as part of its Regional Economic Advancement department for individuals in the trades industry to gain Continuing Education (CEU) credits of safety to maintain their Iowa Plumbing and Mechanical License. Although the information was targeted specifically to these service technicians, it was filled with a wealth of knowledge which should reassure both their employers and customers that they are in safe hands.

According Kyle Gorsh of the Iowa Department of Public Safety in the State Fire Marshal Division, nearly 10 percent of the fires reported in 2013 in Iowa were attributed to electrical distribution, which caused Iowans $5,811,879 in damage.

"When I offer one of these courses, I sometimes forget common-sense information because it seems so obvious, but the most important thing to do when you're working in a big place is to let someone know you're inside the building," said CEU Instructor Cory Paeper.

He explained that today buildings have fire alarms that notify the occupants there is a fire hazard and they must evacuate. However, service technicians are sometimes in small spaces where employees may not notice they are working. According to Paeper, companies must know who is inside of a building at all times because you "may never know if there is someone stuck in there."

Throughout the two-hour course, Paeper gave the students in his course tips on how to ensure their own safety while protecting the occupants of the building they happen to be working on.

"Service technicians must always be prepared," explained Paeper. "For example, most fire stations don't carry Class D fire extinguishers on their engines so they are going to rely on what you have in there."

A Class D fire extinguisher is different than the Class A extinguisher that is used to extinguish basic fires that you may find inside your home. Class D extinguishers are for metal fires that burn at a much hotter and more rapid rate than average fires.

It is important for everyone to know the difference between the fire extinguishers so that they are prepared for the hazard they may have to deal with one day. According to Paeper, the best way to prepare for a potential fire is to always assume it will be the worst-case scenario and to have proper education.

Fire safety education is important to keep in mind for everyone regardless of their age. According to Gorsh, it is important for children to start learning fire education at a young age and continue that education throughout their lifetimes.

"If they [kids] can grasp the seriousness of fire, that is a huge fire step," said Gorsh. "Teaching kids how to prevent fires and escape their homes in the event of a fire can save their life or the lives of their family members."

Another step people may take to prevent fires is to only hire licensed electricians to work inside their homes or places of work. Licensed electricians are skilled in their trade and must brush up on their safety skills annually at various CEU classes.

"If someone believes there may be an electrical hazard in their home, they should immediately contact a licensed electrician to evaluate the problem or remove the hazard from their home," said Gorsh.

It is important to allow professionals to work on electrical issues in your home or business. There are steps available to help prevent electrical fires.

It is important to remember to never overload circuits or extension cords and never place them under rugs. Always ensure smoke alarms are installed in your home and that they are working properly. Keep combustible material away from all heat sources, including portable space heaters and candles.

"All families can perform many simple, yet effective steps to help prevent home fires," said Gorsh.

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