Oct. 6-12 is Fire Prevention Week. This year’s theme is: “Not Every Hero Wears a Cape. Plan and Practice Your Escape.” This year’s emphasis is on the life-saving actions of families who develop a home escape plans and practice them with everyone living in their home.
Evidence shows that today’s homes burn faster than those built in the 1960s and ‘70s, and that humans can inhale with minimal breaths toxic smoke from home furnishings.
I have talked about home escape plans many times, but if one family reads this article and institutes a home escape plan for the first time, then one more time is worth it.
A workable home escape plans begins with a home being protected by a proper number of properly working smoke alarms capable of alerting the entire family, day or night. New homes being built in Chesterfield County require numerous smoke alarms that are connected in series. In other words, they are electrical detectors with a battery backup. When one detector goes off, they all go off. I never found anyone sleeping when all of the smoke alarms were going off at 3 a.m. If your home has the minimum required number of smoke alarms, then you need to ensure that when they activate, everyone will be awakened.
Once alarms are activating, it becomes necessary to take the right actions to get out of the home. Keep in mind that you may only have one chance to get this right.
The best way in and out of your home is through a doorway.
Depending on the layout of your home, the exit that you will use is the exit door that is closest to your room, if at all possible. When you hear the smoke alarms, roll out of your bed, staying low to the floor. If you sleep with your bedroom door closed, you must check the door with the back of your hand before opening it. If the door is hot to the touch, then do not open it since there is most likely fire on the other side. You then must stuff blankets under the door, turn on a light, and decide whether you can escape through a window. If you have a rescue ladder, deploy it (based upon your practicing with it). If you do not, then you have to decide whether to hang and drop or stay until firefighters or neighbors arrive with a ladder. If you decide to stay in your room, you will need to open the window and figure out how you are going to let firefighters know that you are there.
If you check the door and it is cool, then open the door, staying low to the floor, and attempt to crawl to the nearest exit door.
The important thing about your plan is that you have drawn it out and practiced it when there is no fire or smoke present. Practicing with the rescue ladder requires you to know how to secure it to the window sill. Once you have done that, then go outside and climb from the ground up. If you want to learn how to climb out of a window, do it on the first floor. If this seems like a lot, it is if the only time that you do it is when fire or smoke is present. A well thought out and practiced plan will offer the best results, knowing that you cannot plan for every scenario. Most people have never had one conversation with their family about what they will do in the event of a fire.
Fire Prevention Week will pass quickly, but the emphasis is no less important any day of the week.
On a different note, Chesterfield Fire & EMS is encouraging folks to visit a local fire station between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. this week. This is a great opportunity for you and your children to meet firefighters.
I would also like to encourage parents who are home schooling to make fire safety an emphasis. Have your children do a fire safety inspection of your home and help them draw an escape plan for your home. Let’s do everything that we can to prevent fires, but be ready with a practiced home escape plan if a fire does break out.