As October is Fire Awareness Month, it is a perfect time to educate children and adults on fire prevention methods, safety measures, and preparedness drills. Many experts have said a prepared child is more likely to escape a home fire unharmed than one who has not been taught fire safety skills.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, every three hours someone is killed in a home or structure fire. Home fires are the most devastating and common disaster that a family will encounter. This ranks above tornadoes, floods, or hurricanes. In a typical year, approximately 30,000 people nationally are injured by a fire.
Several steps can be taken to prepare for a fire.
First, broaden children’s fire knowledge. A fire is extremely loud and the smoke is very dark. Hearing and sight are greatly impaired, therefore disorientation is imminent. Children tend to hide in closets, under beds, or in corners because of the fear that a fire brings fourth. Encourage children to drop to the ground and crawl under the smoke to the closest exit. If doors are hot, do not open them, find a different escape route. Most importantly, the child should cover his mouth and nose with a hand or an article of fabric, such as a towel or shirt. It is important to note that majority of fire-related deaths occur from smoke inhalation, not from burns.
When teaching children fire safety measures, the Stop, Drop and Roll methods are practiced in case the individual is on fire themselves. However, this methodology also coincides with “get below the heavy smoke and exiting to a safe place.”
Another skill that should be practiced often is the Home Escape Plan. Children are used to practicing fire drills at school; adults are used to practicing fire drills in the workplace, so why not practice the fire drill at your home? According to the American Red Cross, “there are only 40 percent of households nationally that have an Emergency Preparedness Plan.” The Office of Emergency Management in Van Buren County estimates the number here to be 20 percent. Those drills should be practiced at least four times per year.
Some tips for your fire preparedness plans should include: rehearsal of the escape routes out of each room of your home. It is important to remember to have two dedicated routes, whereas one may be blocked by fire. Ensure all windows are easy to open, not painted or nailed shut. If your home is multi-level, place a “fire ladder” in each upper level room that has window access. Think of a common, familiar meeting place that all your family members are comfortable with and can access quickly so that a head count can be accomplished in a timely manner.
A critical safety device in all plans is the smoke detector. The NFPA has stated that “two-thirds of all reported home fire deaths have resulted from fires in homes with no smoke detector alarms or with alarms that were inoperable.” Test smoke detectors regularly and maintaining them according to manufactures recommendations.