Every year, there are unnecessary injuries and death caused by fire. In the United States alone, approximately 4,000 people die and more than 25,000 are injured in fires every year. Many of these fires could have been prevented. Annual property loss due to fire in the United States is estimated to be $8.6 billion.
To protect yourself and your family, it is essential to understand the characteristics of fire. When fire strikes, it spreads quickly. So quickly in fact that many people underestimate the time they have to escape. There is no time to gather your valuables or search for things to take with you. There is no time to make a phone call.
In the span of just two minutes, a fire can become life-threatening. In approximately five minutes, a residence can be totally engulfed in flames. Because your time is limited when the fire occurs, it is essential that you plan for your escape long before a fire happens. Remember these times of two and five minutes are the total time from when the fire starts and not from when you notice the fire or are alerted to the fire.
In many cases, the smoke and heat from the fire can be far more dangerous than the fire itself. If you inhale the super-heated air, it can sear your lungs. The fire, or the combustion process produces poisonous gases. These gases can cause you to become disoriented and drowsy. The fire may not awaken you as you might expect, but rather you may fall deeper asleep. The leading cause of fire deaths is surprisingly not burns, but is instead asphyxiation, which exceeds burns by a three-to-one ratio.
To protect yourself and your family, make sure you have done the following things:
Make a fire escape plan for your home
Get a piece of graph paper and make a simple layout of your home showing the primary exit path from each room. Also, plan for a secondary exit path in case the primary path is where the fire is located.
Review your fire escape plan with your family, especially your children
Everyone in the family should know the plan. Your children should also know what they are to do. Plan a central meeting location where everyone will gather outside of the house.
Practice your fire escape plan – often
Practice, Practice, Practice. Repeat the plan often so that in the case of an emergency the actions will come naturally.
Check your smoke detector monthly with the test button to make sure it is operating properly
Most smoke detectors have a test button on the face of the detector. Depressing this test button momentarily will activate the sounder in the detector to ensure it is operating correctly.
Change the batteries in your smoke detectors twice a year
Daylight Savings Time changes are easy times to remember to do this task. Even though the batteries may still be working, the expense of new batteries does not compare to the risk of the batteries not working.
Remove flammable materials and fire hazards from your home
Store flammable liquids in approved containers in well-ventilated areas and remove old rags and other items that have been in contact with flammable liquids such as oil, paints, and stains.
Check your heating sources
Make sure that any heating sources, especially space heaters are at least three feet away from combustible items. Be sure to keep open flames away from your furniture, walls, and drapes. Also, be sure to keep an approved fireplace screen in front of your fireplace.
Check your electrical connections
Do not overload outlets and extension cords and make sure that there are no frayed wires or exposed conductors that could come into contact with surrounding items.
Keep matches and lighters away from children
Children playing with matches or lighters is one of the leading causes of home fires.
DO NOT smoke in bed
Be careful never to smoke in bed. It is also not a good idea to smoke when you are medicated or drowsy as you might fall asleep and the cigarette could cause a fire. Be sure to completely extinguish your cigarettes in an ashtray and never throw a used cigarette in a trash can as they may continue to smolder and start a fire.
Be proactive in planning for a fire emergency. Take precautions to protect yourself and your family so that you can survive the fire. Follow your escape plan and get out of the house and then STAY out. Do not go back in the house after you are out.
Do not wait until a fire occurs to decide what you will do. Plan and live.