We are right around the corner from this year’s Fire Prevention Week. The theme for this year is “Look, listen, learn, be aware, fire can happen anywhere.”
The point is this:
•Look for places fire can start
•Listen for the sound of the smoke alarm
•Learn two ways out of each room
The goal this year is to take a holistic approach to the fire problem in America. I will seek to address each bulleted point, but more importantly, each of you must address each bulleted point in your individual context.
If we seriously dealt with the first bulleted point, “Look for places fire can start,” we would minimize the need for the other two. If you look for places fire can start, you acknowledge that a fire can happen anywhere at any time. Once you take the time to look for places fire can start, you then must take the necessary steps to correct any issues. Looking requires a methodical assessment of the place where you live or work. Let’s take the kitchen, for instance. Kitchen fires are the leading cause of residential fires in America. The stove or oven is the primary heat source. The air in the room is an adequate supply of oxygen for a fire. The question is, what is the combustible that will catch on fire? Is it the roll of paper towels that are too close to the stove top? Is it the pan of grease being heated up for french fries? Is it the dish towel being used as a pot holder? Whatever the issue is, you need to take a room-by-room approach and fix each potential problem, as they are detected.
Since we will never take bulleted point No. 1 seriously, we must have No. 2 and No. 3.
“Listen for the sound of the smoke alarm” requires that an adequate number of properly placed smoke alarms exists. The code requirement for the number of smoke alarms depends on when a home was built. Older construction requires one smoke alarm per level of the home. Newer construction requires a smoke alarm in each bedroom, just outside of each bedroom, on each level, and in the living space, and they must be tied together in series. Once the proper number of smoke alarms are in place, they need to be tested, at the very least monthly. Smoke alarms in place are only a part of this point. Can your family hear the smoke alarms? Are hearing impaired smoke alarms needed? What about after everyone goes to sleep; will they wake up when smoke alarms are activating? If you cannot answer these questions in the affirmative, then you have a serious problem that must be corrected. Last question is: Do you and your family know what to do when the smoke alarms activate?
The last point is to “learn two ways out of each room.” Where will you go when a fire is detected in your home? Bathrooms and bedrooms only have one door out of the room. The second way out of these rooms is the windows. The question is: Can you get out of every window? Knowing what constitutes the two ways out of every room is only a part of the problem. Knowing how you will exit is vital to a safe escape. Once you leave the room, how will you get out of your house or workplace? Is a rescue ladder needed? If yes, do you have one? If you have one, do you know how to use it? Every person has a responsibility to determine the two ways out of every room that he or she enters. If a person does not have the mental capacity to determine this, then someone must determine this for him or her.
There is no way that I can address everything in this article that could be talked about. The point, as always, is to get you thinking about fire in every building that you enter. You can no longer disregard a fire alarm going off or a smoke alarm activating. Early warning of smoke or fire is designed to give you time to escape. You may only have one shot to get it right. Give each of the three bulleted points the time and effort necessary. Most people who have never had a fire in their home have the mindset that it will never happen to them. This type of thinking could be deadly to you and your family. Think about it!