Do you know what is protecting you when you go to bed tonight? Whether you have an alarm system that includes smoke alarms or...

Do you know what is protecting you when you go to bed tonight? Whether you have an alarm system that includes smoke alarms or you have just smoke alarms, if maintained and regularly tested, they are protecting your family in the event of a fire. I think more fires occur during daylight hours, however, most fatal fires occur in the middle of the night when people are sleeping. You would like to think that a fire would wake you up, but the chances are greater that a fire with smoke will render you unconscious. My alarm clock sits right next to my bed, and I have a hard time waking up to it sometimes. The number of smoke alarms activating and whether you sleep with your door opened or closed may have an effect on how quickly you are awakened by them. The earlier that you are awakened, the more time you will have to get out safely. If you have a practiced home escape plan, then your family knows what each person should do when they hear the smoke alarms activating.

Another thing that is protecting you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, is well-trained and physically fit firefighters. Firefighters spend most of their time, every day, preparing for a fire. Whether it is by checking or maintaining their equipment, through repetitive training on the knowledge, skills and abilities required to do the job, or in their individual physical training that allows them to be able to do the physically and mentally demanding job of a firefighter, they stand ready. Firefighters are on duty in Chesterfield 24 hours on and 48 hours off. The workday starts at 8 a.m. and ends the next day at 8 a.m. Firefighters eat their meals in the fire station, many times later and after a couple of reheats. When I was in the station, we were able to make our beds by 7 p.m. and get in bed by 8 p.m., however, some folks never see their bed again once it has been made. The life of a firefighter while on duty is full of highs, lows and everything in between. The job of a firefighter/medic is a true calling.

I remember a line from the movie “Top Gun” when American planes were in a battle with planes from a foreign power and the captain of the carrier called for the launch of alert fighters, but was told it would take 10 minutes because the catapult was broken. His statement was, “Ten minutes? This thing will be over in two minutes; get on it.” My point is that the opportunity for a family to escape from a fire is within the first few minutes of a fire. The earlier in the fire that smoke alarms activate, the better the chance that the occupants will be able to use a door to get out. With a residential sprinkler system, the chance of survival increases to almost 100 percent. Fire protection is designed to get all of the occupants out of the building as quickly as possible. Buildings can be replaced, people cannot.

Firefighters will come, ready to make a primary search, no matter what information they have been given. If told that a person is in a specific room, a more point-specific search in conjunction with the primary search will take place. The benchmark for a primary search where no occupants are found is “all clear.”

The distance that a fire company has to go to get to a fire will determine how fast they will arrive. The best chance for survival is most likely before firefighters arrive. This also points out the importance of calling 911 as quickly as possible and giving a name, address, phone number and type of situation.