Recent house fires across the state offer a sad reminder that these disasters can occur without warning and have tragic results. Fortunately, preparation and practice are proven to reduce chances of panic and injury in the case of a fire, according to Unified Fire Authority.
Here’s some information from Unified Fire Authority on how to make and practice a home fire escape plan with your family.
The first step to avoiding a home fire is to plan ahead, Unified Fire’s website says. Installing smoke detectors throughout the home can save lives and provide more time for an escape.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, smoke detectors should be installed inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home, including the basement. Levels without bedrooms should have alarms installed near the stairway to the upper level and in the living room.
Unified Fire cautions people to sleep with closed bedroom doors. It takes 10 to 15 minutes for flames to burn through a wooden door, which can buy more escape time.
Another part of planning ahead is having a home fire escape plan in place that the whole family knows to follow, and practice it.
According to a video from the Utah Department of Public Safety, 71% of people responding to a survey said they have a fire escape plan, but only 47% had practiced the plan.
The Department recommends practicing your plan at least twice a year with everyone who lives in the home.
Unified Fire Authority says families should practice exit drills, as “trained and informed people have a much better chance to survive fires in their home.”
“The best thing to do is having a plan,” Patrick Costin, Unified Fire Public Information Officer, says. “The first thing is, just discuss it. If this happens, this is what we’re going to do.”
“We always tell people, feel free to practice with your kids- walk through the house, practice climbing out of windows…” he adds.
Costin says it may be helpful to have kids practice climbing out of basement window wells than can be difficult to maneuver the first time.
When making a plan, keep in mind that residential fires usually occur when people are typically sleeping- from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., and deaths occur in higher numbers from midnight to 4 a.m. Over 6,500 people die every year from fires, with more than half of those being children and senior citizens.
Here are some tips for making your home escape plan:
- Each family member should know of two escape routes to get outside. Practicing these escape routes with children is especially important. Make sure that kids can do things like open windows, put down an escape ladder, and follow the escape route on their own in case parents can’t be there to help.
- Practicing can also alert parents to any jammed windows that might be difficult for children to open in case of an emergency.
- Parents can teach children about what to expect in the case of a house fire so they are better prepared if the situation arises. For example, in the case of heavy smoke, family members should crawl on the ground where smoke is lightest to get to the nearest exit.
- Teach children to feel the backs of doors for heat. If the door is hot, don’t open it. Close doors and block vents between you and the fire to prevent smoke from coming through and to buy time.
- Signal for help at a window with a flashlight or sheet.
- Teach children not to hide if there is a fire, but to actively work on getting out of the house.
- Finally, choose a meeting place outside where everyone knows to gather, such as a tree or mailbox. The meeting place should be located far enough away from the house to be safe from a fire. This will reduce confusion and let authorities and family members know if someone isn’t accounted for and may still be inside the home.
- Do not re-enter the building once outside. Call 911 once outdoors.
- You may have less than three minutes to get out of the house in case of a fire.