Since 1922, the NFPA has sponsored the public observance of Fire Prevention Week. The week was proclaimed a national observance in 1925, making it the longest-running public health observance in the United States. During this week each year, children, adults, and teachers learn how to stay safe in case of fire through lifesaving public education materials and awareness in an effort to decrease casualties caused by fires.

This year, the theme of the campaign is “Not Every Hero Wears a Cape. Plan and Practice Your Escape!” The goal of the campaign is to educate everyone about the small but important actions they can take to keep themselves and those around them safe.

Escaping a home fire

NFPA statistics show that in 2017 U.S. fire departments responded to 357,000 home structure fires. These fires caused 2,630 fire deaths and 10,600 fire injuries. On average, seven people died in a fire in a home per day during 2012 to 2016.

Seconds can mean the difference between a safe escape and a tragedy. Fire safety education isn’t just for children. Teenagers, adults, and the elderly are also at risk, making it important for every member of the community to take some time during Fire Prevention Week to make sure they understand how to stay safe in case of a fire.

The NFPA reports that in a typical home fire, you may have as little as one to two minutes to escape safely from the time the smoke alarm sounds. Escape planning and practice can help you make the most of the time you have, giving everyone enough time to get out. People who have planned and practiced a home fire escape plan are more prepared and will therefore be more likely to survive a fire.

Home fire escape planning & practice

Plan ahead for your escape. Make your home escape plan and practice today. Home fire escape planning and drills are an essential part of fire safety. A home fire escape plan needs to be developed and practiced before fire breaks out. Fire prevention is everyone’s job!

Home fire escape planning should include:

  • Drawing a map of each level of the home, showing all doors and windows
  • Going to each room and pointing to the two ways out
  • Making sure someone will help children, older adults, and people with disabilities wake up and get out
  • Teaching children how to escape on their own in case you cannot help them
  • Establishing a meeting place outside and away from the home where everyone can meet after exiting
  • Having properly installed and maintained smoke alarms

Residents should practice their home fire escape plan with everyone in the household, including visitors. Practice the home fire escape drill at least twice a year, during the day and at night.

Home fire escape practice should include:

  • Pushing the smoke alarm button to start the drill
  • Practicing what to do in case there is smoke: Get low and go. Get out fast.
  • Try using different ways out and closing doors behind you as you leave
  • Never going back for people, pets, or things
  • Going to your outdoor meeting place
  • Calling 9-1-1 or the local emergency number from a cell phone or a neighbor’s phone

Importance of smoke alarms in the home

Smoke alarms detect and alert people to a fire in the early stages. These smoke alarms can mean the difference between life and death in a fire. Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in a home fire in half.

Install smoke alarms in every sleeping room, outside each separate sleeping area, and on every level of the home, including the basement. Test smoke alarms at least once a month using the test button. Make sure everyone in the home understands the sound of the smoke alarm and knows how to respond.

Fire dangers in your home

Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries. The leading cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking. To prevent kitchen fires:

  • Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, boiling, grilling, or broiling food.
  • If you are simmering, baking, or roasting food, check it regularly and stay in the home.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire away from your stovetop.

Heating equipment is one of the leading causes of home fires during the winter months. Space heaters are the type of equipment most often involved in home heating equipment fires. Some tips for using heaters safety include:

  • Keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet (1 meter) away from heating equipment.
  • Have a 3-foot (1-meter) “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
  • Purchase and use only portable space heaters listed by a qualified testing laboratory.
  • Hire a qualified professional to install heating equipment.
  • Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected by a qualified professional at least once a year.

Escaping fire looks different for different types of homes

There are a variety of factors involved in fire escape planning and practice based on the type of home. Fire Prevention Week addresses these varying concerns.

Apartment buildings have varying obstacles to escape than a single-family home. The fire alarm system for apartment buildings are connected, so even if you don’t see fire or smoke, escape when the fire alarm sounds. Meet with your landlord or building manager to learn about the fire safety features and plans in your building. Follow these tips for a safe escape:

  • Know the locations of all exit stairs from your floor. If the nearest one is blocked by fire or smoke, you may have to use another exit.
  • Should the fire alarm sound, feel the door before opening. If it is hot, use another way out. If it is cool, use this exit to leave.
  • Close all doors behind you as you leave.
  • Take the key to your apartment in case you are not able to get out of the building.
  • If fire or smoke is blocking all exits, return or stay in your apartment. Keep the door closed. Cover cracks around the door with towels or tape. Call 9-1-1and let the fire department know you are trapped. Signal from the window by waving a flashlight or light-colored cloth.

Residents of high-rise apartments and condominiums should prepare for escape by meeting with their landlord or building manager. Know what fire prevention measures are in place. During a fire emergency, residents should:

  • Remember to use the stairs to get out. Do not use the elevators unless directed by the fire department.
  • Know all locations of available exit stairs from your floor in case nearest one is blocked.
  • Feel the door before opening and close all doors behind you as you leave. If it is hot, use another way out.
  • If an announcement is made throughout the building, listen carefully and follow directions.
  • Can’t escape? Stuff wet towels/sheets around the door and vents to keep smoke out. Call the fire department and tell them where you are. Open a window and signal with a bright cloth to your location.

Fire department evacuation of a high-rise building can take a long time. Communicate with the fire department to monitor evacuation status.

Fire Systems, Inc.

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