Fire safety is upper most on the minds of most fire department personnel. Many fire safety precautions are easy to take and save lives. More than 4,000 Americans die each year in fires – approximately 1 every 2 ½ hours. Approximately 20,000 are injured each year. Every 10 seconds a fire breaks out and every 60 seconds a fire occurs that requires the call of the fire department.
The most common causes of fires include kitchen fires, which are easily extinguished, sparks from the fireplace, appliances and cigarettes.
Time is the biggest enemy in fire safety. Seconds do count. In less than 30 seconds a small fire can get completely out of control and turn into a major fire. In only minutes the house will be filled with thick black smoke.
Smoke is the enemy in fire safety. Most victims of a fire actually succumb to the smoke and not from burns. Nearly half of the victims are older than 65 or are preschool children.
Fire safety includes planning escape routes and practicing. Especially families with children should practice their escape routes from each room in the house each month. You should have a primary escape and a secondary one if the 1st one is blocked by fire.
The secondary route might be a window to a neighboring roof top or using a collapsible ladder from a second story window.
While you are planning your escape routes be sure that all windows are easily opened and the screens are removable from the inside. If there are security bars on the windows they should have quick release devices from the inside so you aren’t trapped in case of a fire.
When you are practicing fire safety be sure to communicate that you should never waste time saving property. Leave the house immediately and use the safest route through the smoke. Practice crawling through the house, staying low to stay under the smoke and keeping your mouth covered. Smoke carries toxic gasses, which can disorient you or worse overcome you.
With children practice using the back of your hand to feel the top of the door, door knob or door frame to feel heat on the other side of the wall. If you open a door from a flame filled room to another the immediate rush of fresh oxygen will feed the fire and create a back draft that can kill. During fire safety drills practice opening the door carefully by bracing your shoulder against the door and opening slowly. If you feel heat or smoke coming from the adjacent room close the door immediately and use the secondary exit.
Fire safety planning goes beyond exiting the building.
Designate a meeting place outside the house. Be sure everyone knows the place to meet so that you can take ‘attendance’ to be sure everyone got out safely. Designate one person to go to a neighbor’s home to call the police and fire department.
Once you are outside stay outside. Do not go back into a burning building for any reason. Be sure that all children know that rule as well. If someone is missing tell the fire fighters who will have oxygen and equipment to protect themselves from the fire.
Most important to your fire safety plan are smoke detectors which studies have shown can cut your chances of dying in a fire in half when there are fully functional smoke detectors that are well placed in the home.
Fire safety precautions are simple and planning and practicing can take only 10 minutes each month. Those 10 minutes, plus a working smoke detector, can mean the difference between life and death. Take the 10 minutes and chose life!
US Fire Administration: Home Fire Prevention and Safety Tips
National Fire Protection Association: Fire Prevention Week
MedlinePLus: Fire Safety
Illinois Fire Safety Alliance
Consumer Product Safety Commission