People rely on fire and smoke detectors to help keep them safe in their homes. The U.S. Fire Administration says that more than 3,500 Americans die each year in fires, while roughly 18,300 more men, women and children are injured each year. Cooking accounts for the greatest percentage of residential fires, followed by arson. Dryer vent fires are also a big concern. FEMA says that smoke, rather than the fire’s flames, is responsible for 75 percent of all deaths by fire.
Although fires can be devastating, they’re also highly preventable, and smoke alarms and a home fire safety plan are two precautionary measures everyone should take.
Creating an evacuation plan doesn’t have to be complicated.
• Begin by assessing the layout of the home. Figure out the two best exits from the home.
• If your home doesn’t have two doors, invest in a fire ladder so that one of the windows can be a point of exit.
• Know how to gain access to the exits, including the best path to take to avoid injury. It’s a good idea to consider a few different scenarios. A kitchen adjacent to the upstairs staircase may become engulfed in flames and make exit by way of staircase impossible. Just because you have doors to the outside doesn’t mean they’ll present the best type of exit.
• Sketch out the layout of the home and the escape plan. Smoke can make it difficult to know up from down. Be sure everyone can reach the exits even if vision is obstructed. Try it with your eyes closed.
• Check fire alarms routinely, and change batteries at least every year.
• Make sure windows can be easily opened if they are an exit point.
• Make note of who will be helping children or the elderly out of the home.
• Establish a place where the family will meet outdoors. This area should be far enough away from the home so that everyone will be safe from smoke, flames and falling debris. Fires may ignite fuel explosions, so be sure the meeting spot is a good deal away.
• Children should be instructed to run to the meeting spot immediately without waiting behind for anyone to catch up. No one should reenter the home after arriving at the meeting spot.
• Do a few practice runs so that everyone will be accustomed to getting out quickly.
• In most cases it is better to escape and let the fire department extinguish a fire. Fire safety is very important. In conjunction with smoke alarms, a fire safety plan can help everyone get out alive.