Fire Prevention Tips Every Family Needs to Know

By: Stacy McCloud
By: Stacy McCloud

Knoxville (WVLT) - Every two hours someone, somewhere, dies in a house fire and the winter months are often the worst for that to happen.


With free fire alarms and dozens of educational programs, why are there still so many fire deaths?


As Volunteer TV's Stacy McCloud shows you, a lack of personal responsibility and poor planning, may be the biggest reasons.


Scenes from house fires may be enough to make you think, "what if that was me", but unfortunately officials say the images usually aren't enough to push us to immediately establish a plan.


"Talk to your kids, all of your family and decide what we are going to do in the event a fire breaks out, whether it's five in the evening or five in the morning," says Knoxville Fire Captain Darrell Whitaker.


Of course it's key to practice prevention, but an escape plan is just as important considering it's the first line of defense, should the unthinkable occur.


"A fire can consume a room in less than 3 minutes, the entire room carpet to ceiling," Whitaker explains.


Your escape will depend on a number of things.


First you must ask yourself, is the fire bad enough to put your plan into action?


If you can safely get to small children you should do that first.


If not, then you must trust the plan you have practiced.


Some things you should consider are the age and ability of every member in your home, what room they are in and where you will meet once you are outside.


Officials say if you have small children, infant to about age 13, if you are elderly or if you have a disability you should get stickers to help firefighters find everyone, most local fire departments have them. You should place one on your front and back door as well as the bedroom that person sleeps in.


"It won't only make the difference to the family, but the firefighter arriving, because we will risk our lives," says Whitaker.


Firefighters urge you to not wait to make a fire escape plan. Sit down with your family tonight and then practice it randomly and often.



PREVENTION:


1. No matter how careful you are, all fires aren't preventable, but doing what you can do is key. So, PREVENTION is a must in helping to try and ensure your home never catches on fire. You can find a room-by-room fire hazard checklist by going to one or all of these
websites:


www.BeFireSmart.com
www.nfpa.org
www.firepreventionweek.org
www.sparky.org


2. Keep this checklist in every room of your house along with a copy of your FIRE ESCAPE PLAN.


3. Fire alarms. Statistics show that about half of home fire deaths occur in homes without smoke alarms. Keep one on every level of your home, specifically outside the door of the room you sleep. Check your fire alarms once a month, replace alarm batteries once a year and replace any alarm that is more than ten years old.


4. Windows. Make sure every member in your family knows how to open them. If they have security bars, then equip them with quick-release devices and teach everyone how to use them.



ESCAPE PLAN:


You can find many tips on how to develop a plan that is right for you by going to the following web pages:


www.usfa.fema.gov
www.nfpa.org
www.firepreventionweek.org
www.sparky.org
www.BeFireSmart.com


Here are some KEY POINTS from local fire officials and these webpages about developing an escape plan


1. Consider the age of everyone in your home. The escape plan for an infant is different than a toddler. Just as an escape for a young adult is different than a senior or someone with a disability. Every member of your home should understand their responsibility.


For example, if you are elderly or have a disability the best place to sleep is on the ground level of your home as close as possible to an accessible exit.


Children should be very well rehearsed in their plan and it parents should remember it will alter with age. They need to know that if they can't get out, don't be afraid, that is when the plan they have in place will get them out safely. Part of that plan may include having a ladder in a shed near your home so that when the adults escape they can use it to get the child should the fire department have not arrived yet.


2. Don't just establish a plan, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!! A plan alone will do no good if you have not actively rehearsed it. If you have small children make it fun while at the same time letting them know it is serious. You should practice the plan you have in place at all times of the day, while you are in different rooms of your home (fire doesn't only happen while we are asleep in our bedrooms) and also randomly. Make it a surprise and see how everyone reacts. Also have children time themselves so they will know the next time they have a drill they will need to work faster. The more you practice, especially with children, the less of a panic there will be should fire occur.


3. Know at least two exits for every room in your home and practice having to escape EVERY room in your home!!


4. Don't overlook everyday objects. For example, an area rug in the route of an elderly persons way to an exit could cause them to slip and fall.


IMPORTANT TIPS:


1. Sleep with your door shut. Should fire occur this will slow the spread of smoke, flames and any toxic gas.


2. If a fire alarm activates, teach everyone in your home to go to the closed door and feel it. If it is hot or if you can smell a lot of smoke or see flames, stay put, and do whatever it is you have put into place for your ESCAPE PLAN.


3. If you are able to escape the room you are in, close doors behind you as you escape to slow the spread of fire and smoke.


4. If you do have to escape through smoke, crawl keeping your head one to two feet above the floor, where air will be cleanest.


5. Once you are out, STAY OUT!


6. Inform firefighters the moment they arrive if everyone is out of your home. If not, please alert them to where they may be inside the home.


7. Keep a fire extinguisher on EVERY LEVEL of your home. On upper levels keep things like escape ladders handy. You will find other items by going to the websites with room-by-room checklists.



TEACHERS


The Knoxville Fire Department urges you to incorporate fire prevention and safety into your lesson plans. Oftentimes if children take "homework" to their parents that they must take home to finish, it will get the ball rolling in establishing a fire prevention and escape plan.
You can find a HOMEWORK PAGE to print and send home with your students and also fire safety games and activities by by visiting:


www.nfpa.org
www.sparky.org


For other facts about fire deaths and injury visit:


www.cdc.gov/ncip/factsheets/fire.htm


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