By: Brandon Johnson
We often overlook the importance of fire safety in our homes. When we think of fires we mostly think of city/urban areas. While this is mostly true, you and your family should be able to answer the following question: What do I do if there is a fire in my home? Although this may seem like an easy question, your answers may surprise you. As a firefighter, we begin to teach fire safety from preschool to adults. I will discuss the importance of fire drills, planning, and home safety.
What to Know
Know your emergency number! When it comes to fire, we must first know what to do if there is one. The answer is simple, get out and call 9-1-1. It is important to stress the fact to all ages that 9-1-1 is only for fire, police, and ambulance emergencies. If there is a fire that cannot be extinguished by yourself, you should first exit the home and then call 9-1-1. When talking to an operator you should be able to give them your address, the address where the emergency is taking place, and what type of emergency you are having. Stay calm, stay on the phone with the operator, and answer all questions to the best of your knowledge. If you don’t know an answer to a question “I do not know” is the appropriate reply.
Have a plan
Have a plan. Draw and discuss a layout of each level of your home that is understandable to everyone in the home including your children. Make sure your doors and windows leading outside are accessible and operational. Doors and windows with security bars, grills, and guards should have emergency release devices. If possible, you should know at least 2 ways out of every room and have a plan for anyone who may need assistance escaping your home. Families with second and third-level homes should consider purchasing an escape ladder listed by a recognized testing laboratory. Stay low. Most deaths that occur during fires are caused due to smoke inhalation. After exiting your home, you should have a location in front and away from the home where everyone should meet and be accounted for. Just like the fire department does with schools, you should practice fire drills at least twice a year and once at night. Begin your fire drill by activating your smoke alarm. This will also help familiarize children with that sound. During your drill, time yourself. Time yourself to see how long it takes to escape and meet at your designated area. You only have seconds before the possibility of being trapped by smoke or fire. Practice makes perfect so execute your plan to the best of your ability and make the necessary changes where you see fit.
Smoke alarms can be installed in every room, but you only need one per floor. For the best protection, interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home; when one sounds, they all sound. Wireless battery-operated interconnected smoke alarms are now available at places like Home Depot, Walmart, and Target. Everyone in the home must be familiar with the sound of the smoke alarm. Prevent false alarms by installing your smoke alarm away from the kitchen. Generally, they should not be any closer than 10 feet to a cooking appliance. Test your smoke alarm once a month to ensure it is properly functioning and check to make sure the batteries are good. A good investment could be to purchase smoke alarms with a built-in 10-year battery life.
Carbon Monoxide (CO)
Often called the silent killer, carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas. CO is created when fuels such as gasoline, wood, natural gas, and propane burn incompletely. Carbon monoxide can result from faulty furnaces or other heating appliances, generators, heaters, dryers, or cars left running in garages. Common symptoms of CO poisoning may include headache, nausea, and drowsiness. Extremely high levels of poisoning can be fatal, causing death in minutes. CO detectors should be placed in rooms and areas where appliances that can potentially emit CO are used. If your CO detector alarms, get an area with fresh air and call 911. Do not open windows or ventilate your home as this will help the fire department locate the source of the problem.
Stop, Drop, and Roll
We have all heard the phrase “STOP, DROP, and ROLL”, but most of us have never done it. It seems simple enough but if your clothes catch fire this may be the furthest thing from your mind. If your clothes catch fire, stop, and try to remove clothing immediately. If you are unable to, drop to the ground, cover your face, and roll over and over, back and forth. Do not run, this will only feed the fire. Rolling on the ground will smother and extinguish the fire. If a person is unable to roll, cover them with a blanket to smother the fire. Cool any burns in cool water immediately for three to five minutes then cover it with a clean dry cloth. Finally, seek medical attention.