According to the U.S. Fire Administration, fire is the cause of over 3,500 deaths and around 18,300 injuries each year in the United States. What these numbers tell us is that fires within homes are not at all uncommon. With this in mind, now is the time to develop a fire safety plan if you do not have one. This plan can be the difference between life or death.
In addition to a solid plan, smoke detectors should be in place, and should be tested periodically to ensure that they are working. A working smoke detector will allow more time for escape, and should be considered a must have item in the home. Current building codes require a smoke detector be placed in each sleeping room, each level of the home, and in hallways leading to sleeping areas.
A complete fire safety plan will include a plan of escape for every room in the house. Consider all possible exit strategies for each room. Consider drawing a map of the home and highlighting all possible exits. Though adults will likely remember these, children may need a visual aid in order to commit them to memory. Older children should be taught to use these exits when possible instead of waiting for parents to come and get them. It will be up to the parents to make a plan for accessing younger children should a fire break out. If your home is two story, consider purchasing special roll up fire escape ladders that can be flung from an open window and allow a person to climb safely down. Some of the manufacturers of these ladders include Kidde and Werner and can be found online with a quick Google search.
It is also important that everyone know to get as low to the floor as possible in order to avoid inhaling smoke. Everyone should be taught to crawl to avoid the smoke. Smoke inhalation is the cause for the majority of fire related deaths. If possible, cover your nose and mouth while fleeing the home. If you have access to a bathroom, get a towel wet and breath through that. This will help capture smoke particles and may save your life. Children should be taught to do the same.
Pets are a delicate issue, as unfortunately, many perish in fires each year. They cannot be taught to exit the home or avoid smoke. How you wish to handle removing pets during a fire will need to be a personal decision, and may be based on how severe the fire is. Your fire safety plan may include family pets in some manner. Purchasing placards or stickers that can be affixed to a window of your house can alert a firefighter of any pets that may be inside. Write down the number of pets inside your home and attach the sticker to a front window where it can be easily found by emergency responders. This critical information saves rescuers time when locating your pets. You can obtain a free window sticker by going to AKC (www.akc.org) and the ASPCA(www.aspca.org).
The plan should include one safe place outside the home in which everyone can meet once the home has been vacated. This could be a neighbors house, or any other area that is well away from the home. Always get out of the home first, and then call for help. The protection of human life is much more important than the protection of property. As the saying goes, "things can be replaced, people cannot."