Post by: William J.P.Smith
We see it almost daily in the newspaper headlines and on the news, lives are lost and burn injuries are suffered, another home destroyed by fire. The phrase “No working smoke alarm” is frequently reported. It is a scene that firefighters have to see all to often. As a firefighter, many of the residential fires I have responded to were met with tragedies that could have been prevented if people took precautions to make their home a safe one. There are many steps you can take to protect you and your family before, during and after a fire emergency.
If your home has smoke alarms that are properly installed and functioning, they can make the difference between whether or not you and your family can escape during a fire emergency. A smoke alarm should be installed on every level of your home and in every bedroom. About two-thirds of fire deaths occur in homes with no smoke alarms, or where the batteries were dead or removed from the alarm. It is important to test the battery of each smoke alarm at least once a month. Batteries should be replaced once a year. The Los Angeles Fire Department has a Twitter account @SmokeAlarm that sends out a monthly reminder to check your smoke alarms.
One of the most memorable fatal fires that I have responded to, involved a man who left the stove unattended and was watching television while waiting for his food to cook. The man fell asleep and his home caught fire. When we arrived on scene, the home was fully engulfed in flames and we were unable to save him. Cooking fires are the leading cause of home fires and associated injuries. It is important to never leave food on the stove unattended. You should keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen that is easily accessible and not above the stove. Always stay home and monitor food that is cooking in the oven. Your errand can wait!
Is your home accessible? Security bars on doors and windows can provide a defense against intruders. However, that same protection can prove deadly in a fire emergency by trapping you inside. They can also prevent firefighters from being able to gain quick entry into your home. security bars must have quick release devices to allow them to be opened immediately in an emergency. People who live in ‘pack rat conditions’ can create another challenge. Not only does it hinder their ability to escape, but also keeps firefighters from reaching them.
Make a fire escape plan. The best case scenario with a house fire, is when firefighters arrive to find all occupants safely outside. Many times, people have been killed or seriously injured when they re-enter their burning home. Remember, once you’re out – STAY OUT! If you take time to prepare, you can keep you and your family safe.
Founder, EmergencyTraffic.net and Founding Contributor of 2BeeReady.org