Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fire Safety--A Refresher

Within the last week, five kids have died in house fires in our part of the state. I understand when the elderly find themselves disoriented in a fire and parish and I understand that small children tend to hide in a closet or under a bed in a fire, thus leading to their death, but it is hard to understand when healthy, active teenagers die in a fire. Of course each fire is different and in one of the recent fires here, an older teen ran back into the burning home to try to save a younger brother (they both died), but more needs to be done to make sure such tragedies don't happen. Here's some tips:
  • Smoke detectors are the cheapest insurance you can have against house fires. Each bedroom and each level of the home should have a smoke detector. Be sure to check the batteries regularly or better yet, have the detectors hardwired into your home.
  • Installing a sprinkler system (especially during the building process of a new home) is a great way to quickly snuff out fires. Of course most homes don't have these systems and they are nearly impossible to put in after the house is built, but if you have the opportunity to have such a system in your home, it is worth its weight in gold.
  • Keep matches, lighters, and other fire starters away from small kids. They are curious, especially about fire, however the consequences can be disastrous.
  • Have a fire escape plan and practice it often. Everyone needs to know how to escape from each room of the house (usually out the door and out the window), as quickly as possible. The more this is practiced, the more likely the actions to escape will become automatic and require very little thought during an actual disaster. Obviously, in a second story bedroom, you want to have an escape ladder available but you may not want people to use it during a drill for safety reasons. If you look under my bed you will find a heavy gauge rope which is knotted, tied around the bedpost, and ready to toss out of the second story window so we can climb down to safety. Also, after everyone escapes from the burning house, they should all meet in the same place for a quick head count.
  • Have everyone practice the "stop drop, and roll" and also practice crawling from their room to escape (smoke hangs like a sheet and you literally can't see five inches in front of you in a smoky building--crawling out is usually the only way to escape). Other fire safety skills that everyone should know include how to put out a kitchen fire (put a lid on the pan instead of throwing water on it), how to snuff out a small fire (usually covering it with a blanket or some other way to deprive it of oxygen works), and how to safely work the wood stove or fireplace.
  • Get rid of fire hazards. Candles are a huge fire hazard. Oily rags in the garage are another fire hazard. Frayed extension cords, space heaters too close to the drapes, fireplaces with no screen...the number of hazards are endless but can be mitigated with a bit of forethought.
  • Keep charged up fire extinguishers near places where fires are likely to happen (kitchen, garage). Having long reach hoses outside are also a good idea.
  • Smoking should be done outside, in a designated area that is free of combustibles, and the butts should be extinguished in a can full of sand.
  • Take care with seasonal fire hazards. People do Christmas once a year so it can be easy to forget that Christmas lights or a dry tree can be a fire hazard. People do Halloween once a year so they may not remember to put out the candle in the pumpkin before they go to bed.
  • Make a quick sweep of your home before you leave and before you go to bed to check for fire and other safety hazards. How many times have you left home and wondered if you turned off the iron or coffee pot? We bought the appliances that turn themselves off after a while since this seemed to happen quite often.
  • Finally, be sure you have insurance on your home or apartment as well as a regularly updated home inventory. For some reason, fires tend to happen during the period after someone lets their insurance lapse and they end up with nothing--no way to pay their mortgage, no way to rebuild, and no way to replace what they have lost.
Fire safety isn't rocket science. Common sense, some simple precautions, and the mechanical means to detect, prevent, and extinguish fires, can help avert horrible tragedies.

1 comment:

  1. Good post.

    I recommend the group also has a designated place to meet that will be a safe distance from the house.

    In this way everyone can be accounted for, and could possibly save rescue workers or members of your family or friends from needlessly putting themselves at risk going back into the building to look for someone who is no longer in there.