12 Fire Safety Tips for the Home
Eighty percent of fires occur in the home, so it is important for families to discuss what to do in case of a fire, especially if your home includes someone with special needs. Here are a few tips from my local fire department you may wish to keep in mind.
- Have a plan. Have a designated meeting place outside the house and emphasize that leaving the house to escape the fire does not mean you are abandoning your siblings or pets.
- Never go back inside once you are out. Call the fire department after you are safely outside; never call from inside a burning home.
- Show children how the smoke detector works and what it sounds like. If someone is deaf or hard of hearing, use a detector with a strobe light.
- Schedule regular fire drills to practice getting out of the house quickly.
- Install smoke detectors on EVERY floor and in EVERY bedroom and maintain them. Ten-year lithium battery detectors are recommended, because of the ease of maintenance (they do not require annual battery changes.) Smoke detectors should be replaced every 10 years. Carbon monoxide detectors should be replaced every 5 years.
- Change batteries once a year. If you have a smoke or carbon monoxide detector that requires changing the batteries once a year, pick an annual event like a birthday or anniversary, when you change the clocks in the fall, or make it part your holiday preparations at Thanksgiving.
- Test batteries EVERY month to be sure your detectors are working.
- Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, garage, near a fireplace — anywhere a fire is more likely to break out. However, remember, fire extinguishers are only for small localized fires. Practice the PASS procedure (Pull pin, Aim, Squeeze, and Sweep) so you can act without thinking should an emergency arise. Lightweight aerosol units are now available that almost anyone can use. Replace fire extinguishers every 7-10 years; the chemicals lose their ability to put out a fire over time.
- Place evacuation needs in upper story bedrooms. If bedrooms are located on a second or third floor, keep a rolled up, metal ladder and small fire extinguisher in a box under one window. Teach children how to use the equipment in case of an emergency.
- Keep a working flashlight next to every bed. In case of fire, a flashlight can help you see where you are going AND be used as a signaling device for help if you need it. Check these batteries regularly also.
- If someone in your home has a disability and would have difficulty getting out of the house independently, make sure your escape plan takes this into consideration. For example, a first floor bedroom (elevators do not operate if there is a fire), an emergency pendant or phone within reach, and a flashlight for signaling for help are essential.
- Tell your local fire department about any special needs. Recording special needs information in the 911 database will let emergency dispatchers tell fire fighters where to locate the person needing assistance, (i.e. which apartment, which bedroom), and what special equipment or rescue procedures might be necessary (oxygen use, immobile, etc.) Be aware that information entered in their database likely becomes part of the public record, so do not share information you would not want everyone to know.
In some communities 911 service is not available and information may not be shared between agencies, so be sure to ask if any special needs information is shared with police and emergency medical services personnel. If not, contact these agencies yourself.
For more information on teaching home fire safety or if you have questions about fire safety and prevention, contact your local fire department using their non-emergency number. For more tips, fun quizzes, and information on fire prevention visit the National Fire Prevention Association Website.
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