Two sides of the same coin

The time is 3 a.m., and you are awakened by your smoke alarm system. You roll out of bed, turn your light on, and feel your door with the back of your hand. The door is cool, so you open the door. There is a light haze of smoke in the hallway. You continue down the hallway, down the steps. Incidentally, the smoke is a bit heavier in the stairway, but you are still able to stay under the smoke. You go out through the front door, and meet your family at your special meeting place in the front yard. Everyone is safe because the smoke alarms alerted everyone, and they followed the practiced home escape plan to get out.

The time is 3 a.m., and you wake up to the strong smell of smoke in your bedroom. There is the chance that you could have died while sleeping from the smoke inhalation. You roll out of bed and get to your bedroom door. You turn on the light in your bedroom, and feel the door with the back of your hand. The door is very hot to the touch, indicating that the fire is close to your bedroom, so you cannot leave through this door. You stuff blankets under the door to prevent as much smoke as possible from entering your room. You then go to the window, open the window, and decide to call for help or exit via this window. You do not have a rescue ladder. The smoke is getting thicker in your room, so you decide to hang and drop from the second floor. As you drop to the ground, you break your right ankle. You make your way to the front yard only to find that your wife and son are still inside the house. You decide to re-enter the house, which has heavy smoke issuing from every window. You get inside the front door and are quickly overcome by the heat and smoke. Your entire family dies in this fire.

What if I told you that both of these fires started downstairs in the kitchen? Fire No.1 was quickly detected by your smoke alarm system, giving your entire family the opportunity to escape. The fact that you had a special meeting place and a practiced escape plan meant that everyone knew where to meet. In fire No.2, there were no operating smoke alarms, which allowed the fire to burn longer before detected. The heat and/or fire had reached the upstairs hallway, preventing escape from the doorway. The absence of a rescue ladder prevented a safe escape from the second floor. The broken ankle hurt, but did not keep you from making the bad mistake of re-entering the home. You were once taught Get Out & Stay Out, but your family was in there, and you thought that you could save them. Consequently, you died, as did the rest of your family.

You might say this is all make-believe. Yes, I made up these two fire scenarios. The problem is that these scenarios could be found in any locality on any given night. The difference is that one family was prepared and the other was not. Fires do not occur when we expect them, but when we least expect them. Kitchen fires occur in the middle of the night, just as they do in the middle of the day. We must not be lulled into a sense of complacency, simply because a fire has never occurred in our home to date. I would rather be prepared for the fire that never occurs, than unprepared, resulting in the loss of a member of my family. If your house fits the fire No.2 scenario minus the fire, you have the opportunity to fix the deficiencies before a real fire occurs. You might only have one chance to get this right.     

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