This Saturday marks the start of Fire Prevention Week. It’s a time dedicated to raising awareness of fire safety, what causes home fires, what measures you can take to prevent fires from happening, and how to prevent harm to your family should a fire occur. This year’s theme “Every Second Counts: Plan 2 Ways Out!” highlights the importance of having a plan and acting quickly in a fire.
Education about limiting fires and fire damage is the focus of Fire Prevention Week each year. Did you know a home fire is reported every 86 seconds according to the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) 2015 statistics. No one ever expects to have their home catch fire, but it’s not uncommon. This startling statistic reminds people that having a fire plan for your home and family is so important.
Many families don’t have a plan in place and the cost, should a fire happen, can be someone’s life. But how do you prepare your family for a potential fire? The best way to get started is to sit down with the family for a discussion and implement a plan:
Put time into perspective – ask your family members to visualize the home, and discuss in pairs or as a group all the ways to get out of the home—the catch is, they only have two minutes to do so. After the 120 seconds are up, tell them that that is roughly the same amount of time they would have to escape in the event of a fire, which is not enough time to come up with an escape plan on the spot. That’s why it’s so important to have a plan in place ahead of time.
Draw a map of the home – including all windows and doors. On that map, draw two ways out of each room. Once the map is drawn, take the entire family around the home and make sure each way out is usable. Remove any objects that could block windows and doors. Make sure each member of the family can open each window and door.
The plan doesn’t end with escaping the building – be sure to choose a meeting place in front of your home. Make sure every person in the family knows which tree, light pole, or other permanent landmark to gather next to. This will make headcounts easier.
Who needs help? – plan ahead how you will assist anyone who may need help escaping, like young children, elderly adults or disabled family members. Assign someone to help ahead of time so everybody knows what their responsibility is during an emergency.
Practice the plan – at least twice a year, and remember that every second counts—practice getting out of the building in under two minutes. NFPA says that about half of home fire deaths result from fires reported between the hours of 11:00pm and 7:00am, so be sure to practice the plan at least once during night hours.
Remember smoke alarms have a shelf life. If yours are 10 years or older – replace the entire unit as soon as possible! An evacuation plan is far more effective when the alarm system in your home is updated and fully functional. Also, don’t forget to test your smoke alarms regularly and replace the batteries when needed. A good rule is to replace your smoke alarm batteries while you are changing your clocks for Daylight Savings Time. An added bonus – this will help you avoid the annoying “chirp” of low smoke alarm batteries in the middle of the night.
For more information you can visit NFPA’s website to access free resources for teaching fire safety to your family, members of your community or students. In addition, you can help spread the word of this year’s campaign with a number of campaign products from NFPA.