It’s 2 a.m. on Sunday. Your family is home, sleeping safely in your beds. Suddenly, you are wakened by the persistent BEEP BEEP BEEP of your smoke alarms. Your first thought may turn to batteries, but you smell smoke. Do you and your family know what to do?
Home fire escape planning and drills are essential elements of fire safety. However, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), only one of every four American households have actually developed and practiced a home fire escape plan; one-third of individuals surveyed thought they would have at least six minutes before a fire in their home would become life-threatening (in reality, time available for escape is usually much less); and, only 8 percent of U.S. households said their first thought on hearing a smoke alarm is to get out.
It’s too late to develop a home fire escape plan when fire strikes. Fire spreads rapidly. In many cases, a household may have as little as two minutes from the time the smoke alarm sounds to escape safely. Home fire escape planning and practice ensures that everyone knows how to use those moments effectively. A good home escape plan includes:
— Two exits from every room in the home (usually a door and a window);
— Properly installed and working smoke alarms throughout the home – inside every bedroom, in hallways outside bedrooms, family room and on every level of home;
— A designated meeting place outside in front of the home, a safe distance away from the structure, where everyone will meet immediately upon exiting. Examples of a designated meeting place may include a tree, light pole, or mailbox;
A family member should call 911 immediately upon arriving at the designated meeting place. An additional consideration in planning is that all exits should remain unblocked. Never place a piece of furniture in front of a window or door or clutter escape routes. Windows and doors should open easily.
Home fire escape plans should be practiced at least twice per year. Practice at night and in the daylight. Teach children how to escape on their own in case you can’t help them, and be sure that everyone understands to close doors behind them as they leave to slow the progress of fire and smoke. If there are infants, senior adults, or family members with mobility limitations, designate someone to assist them, and practice drills in realistic circumstances.
If your smoke alarm sounds, remember:
GET OUT AND STAY OUT. Never go back inside for people or pets. If you suspect that a person or pet is trapped, immediately tell the fire department the last known location.
GET LOW AND GO to escape through smoke. Smoke is thick and black, making it impossible to see – even in daylight. Crawl under the smoke, covering your mouth and nose with your shirt.
CALL the fire department from outside your home.
The McKinney Fire Department offers a variety of educational/outreach programs and activities including home safety inspections, fire station tours, Citizens Fire Academy, Senior Fire and Fall Safety, and programs for clubs and civic organizations. For additional information, please visit www.mckinneyfire.org or call 972-547-2893.