Two Ways Out - Practicing Escaping a Home Fire During Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 7 - 13
A fire can spread in a house rapidly, leaving little time to escape. Knowing what to do and planning escape routes can dictate whether or not one gets out safely. According to the National Fire Protection Association, only one-in-five households develop or practice a fire escape route to ensure a quick and safe exit from the building. Are you part of the 80 percent ignoring this important safety practice?
This year’s theme for National Fire Prevention Week, October 7 to 13, is “Have 2 Ways Out!” and implementing and practicing an evacuation plan is a great way to keep you and your family safe. The Burn Foundation, a Philadelphia-based non-profit serving the greater Philadelphia region in fire and burn prevention, is urging families to use the occasion as an opportunity to make sure each household has the proper evacuation plan set in place. The Foundation also suggests using the week as motivation to practice other fire safety inspections such as checking the batteries in smoke detectors and inspecting fire extinguishers.
“Making and practicing a home evacuation plan means thinking about your home on fire and your loved ones in danger, which is frightening. But not taking these actions puts you and your family at great risk,” said Patricia Porter, president and CEO of the Burn Foundation. “And checking our smoke alarm batteries takes only minutes and is one of the most important things you can do monthly to keep your family safe.”
The Burn Foundation recommends families use National Fire Prevention Week as an opportunity to follow these Seven Steps to Safety.
Create a Home Evacuation Plan: Physically draw this plan, noting two escape routes from every room. Keep these routes clean and free of clutter. You should also designate a “meeting place” some distance from the house where everyone knows to gather. Review the Burn Foundation Home Escape Handout for tips and ideas.
Practice Evacuating: Set up several different scenarios so family members can try different escape routes. For example, to make sure everyone knows what to do should a fire occur while they are sleeping, have them lie down in bed and then press the test button to set off the smoke alarm. (Note: Family members who would be using fire ladders to evacuate bedrooms on upper floors should practice setting the ladders up in their actual windows, but should practice escaping from first floor windows.)
Get Out and Stay Out: Many people try to fight home fires themselves, or, having escaped the home, return to save their possessions. These actions are dangerous since fires spread very quickly. The most important safety action you can take during a home fire is to commit to getting out, staying out, and calling 911.
Install Alarms: At minimum, you should have one smoke alarm on every floor and outside of every sleeping area. (Family members who sleep with their doors closed should have smoke alarms installed inside their bedrooms too.) If a member of the household has challenges – such as hearing loss – that would prevent the alarms from being effective, contact your fire department to learn about safety alternatives.
Check and Replace Batteries: You should test all your smoke alarm batteries at least once a month. Generally, the batteries will need to be replaced every six months, though some alarms use 10-year lithium ion batteries. Determine which batteries your alarm uses and schedule reminders to replace them when necessary, making a notation in your calendar as appropriate. The smoke alarms themselves should be replaced every 10 years.
Explore Alternatives: Most people are familiar with battery-powered smoke alarms but they are not the only ones available. Hard-wired alarms have an even better record of alerting residents to home fires, and, when placed on all floors, interconnected smoke alarms can increase safety as well. Fire sprinklers are another cost-effective safety alternative and can also reduce the cost of homeowners’ insurance.
A Noise You Can Live With: Who hasn’t wanted to disable a smoke alarm when it goes off because you’ve burned something in the kitchen? Try to avoid the temptation to do this, but if you must, replace and reconnect them immediately.
About the Burn Foundation
Established in 1973, the Burn Foundation is a Philadelphia-based non-profit organization serving the greater Philadelphia region to prevent burns through education, and support the burn care community, burn survivors, and their families. It works closely with four regional burn medical centers—Crozer-Chester Medical Center, Lehigh Valley Hospital, St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, and Temple University Hospital—all of which treat patients from more than 160 referring hospital emergency rooms in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey and the State of Delaware.