FORT LEE, Va. (April 12, 2012) -- With the long fall and winter seasons behind us, it’s time to think about spring and the storms that often accompany the arrival of warmer weather.

The Fort Lee community must be adequately prepared for fire safety throughout the spring storm season. Seasonal storms are not always predictable.

On April 28, 2008, three tornadoes ripped through Central Virginia, wreaking havoc on several cities that border Fort Lee and causing structural damage. Several major lightning strikes caused power surges and outages.

The greatest fire hazards associated with the spring storm season are lightning and high winds that often cause power surges and outages. There are eight steps residents can take in advance of a storm and during a power outage to significantly reduce the chance that a fire will occur. They include the following:

• Have several flashlights with fresh batteries handy. Do not use candles for lighting during a power outage. Use the flashlights instead.

• Do not use liquid fuel lanterns indoors. Not only is there a substantial fire risk, but the carbon monoxide released by these lanterns is a colorless, odorless and deadly.

• Have battery-powered smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors installed throughout the home and be sure that the batteries have been replaced within the last six months. Remember, it’s not too late to change batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

• Have at least one Class ABC fire extinguisher on hand. Make sure it is charged. Family members should know how to use it.

• Use surge protectors to help protect electronics and appliances. A lightning strike can travel through home electrical wiring, phone lines, cable television and plumbing. Unplug any appliances that are not needed for the duration of the storm.

• In the event of a “brown out” when the power to the home is on but appears dim, unplug refrigerators and turn off air conditioners to reduce the chance of damage to these appliances and reduce the possibly of a fire occurring.

• Have an emergency exit plan complete with two ways out of all parts of the house and a meeting place outside. Be sure that everyone is familiar with the plan and practice EDITH (Exit Drills In the Home) at least twice a year. Practice your plan during night time hours, too.

• If you suspect that your home has been struck by lightning don’t take chances, get everyone out immediately to a sheltered location such as a neighbor’s home and call 911.

For many area residents, spring signifies the end of cold weather and the beginning of many outdoors events including fishing, boating, golfing and barbecue cookouts.

With this season, though, comes an increased risk of house fires from severe storms. Take these simple steps to prepare for the storms and greatly increase safety.

Fort Lee Fire and Emergency Services actively promotes fire safety to all who work, live and visit Fort Lee. For questions or assistance, call the Fire Prevention Office at (804) 734-6597.