Darts and laurels

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 7, 2011

Dart to fire fatalities and injuries, which take a horrendous toll that is largely avoidable ó one of the main messages of Fire Prevention Week, which begins Sunday.
A proclamation from the Rowan County Board of Commissioners urges all citizens to protect their homes and businesses from fire and support fire departments and other first responders. First on the list: Make sure your home has working smoke detectors. Roughly 3,000 people die each year because of fires, and the majority succumb from inhaling smoke or toxic gases, not burns, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The National Fire Prevention Association says about two-thirds of home fire deaths occur in residences without alarms.
Other fire facts:
Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and injuries, while heating equipment and smoking are the leading causes of home fire deaths.
Fires involving heating equipment peak in December, January and February, as do deaths from these fires.
The leading factor contributing to heating equipment fires is failure to clean solid-fueled heat sources such as fireplaces or wood-burning stoves, with creosote-caked chimneys often to blame.
Half of home heating fire deaths result from heating equipment igniting flammable items such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses or bedding.
Residents who have practiced an escape plan are more likely to survive a house fire.

Laurels to people who still take the time to write personal letters, rather than simply zipping off an email or communicating via Facebook. As you might expect, theyíre a vanishing breed. The Postal Serviceís annual survey shows that the average household gets one personal letter about every seven weeks, down from a letter every two weeks roughly a quarter century ago. The pen may be mightier than the sword, but apparently itís no match for computers or smart phones.

Dart to the rise in health insurance premiums, which averaged about 9 percent for employer-sponsored family plans, according to a recent report. Consumers may not be able to stave off higher health care costs, but they do have a new tool for tracking them. A federal website now allows users to see which health insurers in their state are seeking rate increases of 10 percent or more and why insurers believe the rate hikes are justified. The public can also comment online about the proposed rate increases. You can find the information at www.healthcare.gov.