Fall is officially here, and with it comes the National Fire Protection Agency’s National Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 9 -15. This year’s theme is “Protect Your Family from Fire,” which makes now a good time to come up with a fire evacuation plan or review the one your family already has in place.
A small fire can escalate into a major blaze in less than a minute, and a sound escape plan greatly reduces fire-related deaths and protects your family if a fire occurs. Whether you have established an fire evacuation route or are coming up with one now, these are some important safety reminders and instructions you can you use when reviewing or planning your home evacuation plan.
Plan two ways out of every room in your house — this way if one path is blocked by flames or smoke there is an alternate path out. For example, a bedroom door can be the primary escape path and a window the secondary one. If you intend to use an upper-story window as an evacuation option, be sure to store a collapsible ladder in the room in a well-known place. The U.S. Fire Administration advises consumers to only purchase ladders evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory.
Practice escaping from the house with a blindfold, in the dark, or with your eyes closed. This will prepare you and your family to navigate through smoke if it is blocking your exit route. Remember to stay low to the ground to avoid the smoke and keep your mouth covered with a piece of clothing, blanket, or towel since the toxic gases from smoke can cause disorientation or fainting.
Make sure doors and windows open easily. Check windows to make sure they are not stuck, and that everyone in the house knows how to open them and remove the screen if necessary. If you have security bars on your windows, check the quick-release device to make sure they can be opened immediately, and practice opening the locks with everyone in the house.
Designate a meeting place that’s away from the house, such as the end of the driveway or a place on the sidewalk. Hold a fire drill to ensure everyone in the house knows where to meet. Also pick someone to be in charge of going to a neighbor’s house and calling 911.
Time is of the essence during a fire, so don’t waste time trying to save property. Remind your family members of this, too, especially children who may want to save their toys. A homeowners policy will help with the replacement cost of your property, and while some items are impossible to replace, they’re not worth a life.
Teach children not to hide or be afraid of firefighters. Remind young kids that firemen will help them in the event of an emergency.
In the event of a fire, check a closed door using the back of your hand to feel the door, doorknob, and the crack between the floor and door frame to make sure the fire is not outside the door. If any of these things feel hot, use the second escape path from the room. If the door is cool, open it slowly and brace your shoulder against the door. If heat and smoke come in, close the door quickly and use the other escape route.
For more information on National Fire Prevention Week or fire safety procedures, visit www.nfpa.org. You can also contact your Trusted Choice® independent insurance agent for more information on protecting your family from the flames by obtaining or reviewing your homeowners or renter’s insurance policy.