This year’s fire prevention week theme is “Hear the beep where you sleep.” Fire incident reporting shows that the large majority of civilian fire...

This year’s fire prevention week theme is “Hear the beep where you sleep.” Fire incident reporting shows that the large majority of civilian fire injuries and deaths occur between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., while most people are sleeping. You have read where I have stated that your house must have an adequate number of smoke alarms, but another vital aspect of that protection is for them to be properly placed in your home. The minimum was to have a smoke alarm on every level of the home, including the basement. However, due to further studies, it has become part of the building code that every bedroom, as well as outside of each bedroom must be protected by a working smoke alarm. Even if you live in an older home, you should add a proper number of properly placed smoke alarms in your home.

If a smoke alarm activates at night, but no one recognizes it as such, what good is it? Smoke alarms must be able to wake adults and children up and then people must know how to appropriately respond to that sounding alarm. Most fire drills are conducted while people are wide-awake. If most people are injured or killed while sleeping, why not perform home fire drills after your family goes to sleep. Smoke disorients people, so the earlier that you and your family wake up, the better the opportunity to get out in clearer conditions.

What should you do in response to this article? The first thing is to install a proper number of smoke alarms: one per level, including the basement, one in every bedroom and just outside of every bedroom. Once the detectors are installed, they must be tested to ensure that they work, and this should be done monthly. You then need to perform a practiced home escape plan, when conditions are clear and everyone is wide-awake. After everyone has the plan down pat, then you should perform a home escape plan after everyone goes to bed. As stated in other articles, rescue ladders must be deployed in every drill. If it does not come out of the box in practice, then it will not come out of the box for the real thing.

Smoke alarms are inexpensive. There is no reason why you should not have them. If there are financial issues, you can contact your local fire department, or if you live in Chesterfield County, you can call the Fire & Life Safety division at 748-1426 and they will arrange for the appropriate fire station to come to your home and install smoke alarms. There are even smoke alarms designed for those who are blind or deaf. Sometimes, departments are able to purchase these with grants, but at least they can point you in the right direction. The bottom line is do not spend another night in your home without it being protected by smoke alarms. Your life and the lives of your family depend upon it.