According to the U.S. Fire Administration, fires in one- and two-family dwellings account for 67 percent of all winter home fires, and such fires occur mainly in the early evening hours, peaking from 5 to 8 p.m.
When an emergency happens, it’s critical to have a plan in place for you and your family to “get out and stay out” of your residence.
Exit drills in the home
Exit drills in the home can help people prepare for an emergency. Most home fires occur at night, when people are the least prepared. Home fires can become a disaster if you and your family are not familiar with how to escape during an emergency.
Designing your fire-escape plan
To design your own fire-escape plan, sketch the floor plan of your home on a piece of paper. Indicate on the plan all doors, windows and other areas from which you could escape from each room in your home. Draw arrows to indicate the normal exits which could be your primary escape route. With an alternate color, draw arrows to indicate a secondary exit from each room in the home.
Designate a meeting place
Choose a location outside the home where family members should meet once they have safely escaped. A neighbor’s front yard or sidewalk may be an ideal meeting place.
Have enough smoke detectors
Ensure you have working smoke detectors. The number of detectors you need and their locations depend upon the layout of your home. There should be a smoke detector located in each sleeping area. It is also a good idea to have at least one detector on each level of your home, including the basement.
Everyone should know the location of telephones in the home and where to find a telephone outside of the home. It is very important that children also know the “911” phone number in order to report a fire or other emergencies to authorities.
Practice makes perfect
Your fire-escape plan may look great on paper, but does it really work? During an
emergency is the wrong time to find out it doesn’t. Regular exit drills will allow you to test the plan and make adjustments as needed. When practicing your exit drills, remember to use alternate escape routes as well. Children should be closely supervised during drills in the home and no one should take unnecessary chances.
People with physical or mental handicaps face greater risks during a fire emergency. People with special needs should sleep in bedrooms near someone who can help in the event of an emergency. A physically handicapped person may require a sleeping area on the ground floor. Design a special escape plan based on the abilities of the person.
Last year, roughly 2,600 people were killed by home fires and 12,500 were seriously injured, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Advanced planning will ensure that you are ready for any fire emergency and can provide you and your loved ones peace of mind.
For more home fire prevention safety information, contact the Fort Leonard Wood Fire Department’s Fire Prevention Section at 573.596.0886.
(Editor’s note: Campbell is a fire inspector for the Fort Leonard Wood Fire Department.)