If your house catches on fire, how will your children get out? Your house catching on fire is bad enough, but add to it that a member of your family could not get out and that makes it even worse. The fire service has been doing pre-fire planning for years. It is high time that we take on this same attitude concerning our family that lives in our home. A fire could occur at any time, day or night. The actions taken by occupants during the day are different from the actions that may be taken at night, especially after everyone has gone to bed and is asleep. A proper number of properly placed and properly operating smoke alarms is a step in the right direction that gives your family the earliest warning possible of a fire in your home. The question is, what will they do? If you never practice, you will never know for sure.
Let’s take a look at a two-story home, with fire involvement on the first floor that prevents escape from the first floor. This means that self-rescue will only occur if people escape through a window. What will that look like? I cannot tell you the number of windows that are nearly impossible to open, and definitely could not be opened by a child. If escape must be from a window and the window can be opened, what is below your windows and would your children know what to do? I have written about rescue ladders for those that have two- or three-story homes. Rescue ladders are relatively inexpensive for the tremendous benefit to having one or more in your home. If you have a rescue ladder, then you must teach your family how to deploy it. Will your family know how to get up into the window to escape down the ladder? Here is a way to practice with a rescue ladder:
• Deploy the ladder out of the window from what it will be used from.
• Put some kind of step at that window.
• Once deployed, go outside and let your family climb up the ladder from the ground up.
• Deploy the ladder from a first-floor window, which allows your family to know what it feels like to climb out of a window onto the ladder.
• Put the ladder back at the window that it will be deployed from, on the second floor, in the event of a fire that requires escape from the second floor.
If there is no rescue ladder and escape is necessary from a second-floor window, then your family will have to hang and drop. In other words, your family must climb out of the window, hang from the window sill and drop to the ground.
There is another alternative to leaving from a second-floor window, and that is to protect in place. There may be enough time to close your door, put clothing or blankets under the door, turn the light on, and open the window, clearing everything out of the window, which should be done if you are going to leave from that window as well. You then need to do whatever is necessary to let someone know that you are in that room.
Fire in your home is a scary thing, but by preparing your family ahead of time, you will know that you did everything possible to enable your family to make life-saving decisions when time is of the essence. Preventing a fire from ever occurring is the best way to protect your family, but never say never. A fire in the middle of the night can have catastrophic effect, especially if you have done nothing to train your family. Once everyone gets outside, you all must stay outside and go to the safe meeting place that you have established. Stay outside, even if someone is still inside. You do more to save a loved one by telling firefighters where the family member sleeps. Do your part to protect your family at all cost!