By Michael Campbell
Special to GUIDON
Every year thousands of people die or are injured in house fires. With proper awareness, prevention, and preparation, this number can be significantly reduced.
Awareness — Be aware of the most common causes of house fires.
Prevention — Do what you can to eliminate these causes in your house.
Preparation — Be prepared to react quickly and appropriately if a fire were to occur.
Exit drills in the home
One way to prepare for a fire for the whole family is by preparing and practicing exit drills in the home, otherwise known as EDITH. This starts today by sitting down with your family and making a detailed plan of what to do in case a fire happens in your home. It is critical to preplan your escape and practice it often while there is no emergency so it becomes instinctual when the real fire happens.
Draw a floor plan of your home and find at least two ways out of every room including doors, windows, and any other way you could use to get out.
Make an escape plan and talk about your exit route, changing where the fire is located and different hazards that might be there.
Practice your escape plan by having “fire drills” with your family at least twice a year.
If a fire does occur, check the door for heat and stay low to the floor where the air is cleaner and cooler.
If you are trapped, close the doors between you and the fire and stuff the cracks with something to keep the smoke out. If there is a phone in the room, call 911 and let them know exactly where you are in the house. Signal to the outside with a sheet or flashlight until there is someone to help you.
Don’t try to rescue pets or possessions. Instead, go straight to your designated meeting place.
Decide on a meeting place outside of your home where the whole family can meet. This will allow you to account for everyone and inform the fire department if anyone is missing. This place can be anything from a neighbor’s driveway, to a tree, to a mailbox.
Dial 911 from a neighbor’s house or a phone outside of the burning building.
Once you exit safely from the building, under no circumstance should you go back into a burning building. Many people have died while going back in and trying to save something or someone.
For more information on home fire prevention safety information, contact the Fort Leonard Wood Fire Prevention Section at 573.596.0886.
(Editor’s note: Campbell is a fire inspector with the Fort Leonard Wood Fire Department.)