Gov. Rick Snyder has proclaimed October 7-13 Fire Prevention Week in Michigan to encourage individuals and families to develop and practice home fire escape plans, and to ensure homes are equipped with working smoke alarms or automatic fire sprinkler systems for additional preparedness. This year’s theme is “Have 2 Ways Out.”
“Having a practiced home escape plan is critical because fire is unpredictable and moves fast. You may have only seconds to escape safely,” said state fire Marshal Richard Miller, in a release. “In less than three minutes, your home could be totally engulfed in flames, so every family member should know how to react quickly and calmly."
The St. Clair Shores Fire Department kicked off Fire Prevention Week Sunday with an open house, which included a number of safety tips, interactive displays and autumn treats at the central fire station with the goal saving lives in the city.
In 2011, 68 people in Michigan died in home fires and fire departments throughout the state responded to 15,578 home fires, according to the National Fire Incident Reporting System. Home is where people are at greatest risk from fire with more than 75 percent of all fire fatalities occurring in home fires. Cooking equipment, heating and electrical equipment, smoking materials, and lit candles are among the leading causes of all reported home fires.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), less than 25 percent of American households have developed and practiced a fire escape plan to be prepared in the event of a real emergency.
Here are some important tips for developing a home fire escape plan:
- Draw a map of each level of your home and show all doors and windows. Find two ways to get out of each room.
- Know the safest exit route; practice crawling low -- necessary for escaping through smoke which contains toxic gases, which can disorient you or, at worst, overcome you.
- Make sure all doors and windows that lead outside open easily and that every family member understands and practices how to properly operate and open locked windows and doors – especially those with security bars that should be equipped with quick release devices to allow them to be opened immediately in an emergency.
- Remember to never open doors that are hot to the touch – fire may be on the other side; leave the door closed and use your secondary escape route.
- Only purchase collapsible escape ladders evaluated by a recognized testing laboratory. Use the ladder only in a real emergency.
- Teach children how to escape on their own in case you cannot help them. And, teach them not to hide from firefighters.
- Have a plan for everyone in your home who has a disability.
- Practice your fire escape plan at night and during the daytime with the entire family twice a year and sound the smoke alarm.
- Designate a safe meeting location a safe distance in front of your home where everyone can meet once they have escaped, such as a specific tree, at the end of the driveway, or front sidewalk.
- Take attendance to make sure everyone has gotten out safely.
- Never go back into a burning building for any reason.
- If someone is missing or pets are trapped inside, tell the firefighters right away. They will make the safe rescue.
- Make sure everyone in your home knows how to call 9-1-1 or local emergency number.
- Make sure that your house number can be seen day or night from the street for fire and emergency personnel.
According to Miller, nearly two-thirds of home structure fire deaths occur in homes where there is no smoke alarm or where smoke alarms are present but fail to operate because the batteries have been removed. Having working smoke alarms cuts the risk of dying in reported home fires in half and having automatic fire sprinkler systems in the home cuts the risk of dying in a home fire by about 80 percent.
“Many homes still have only one smoke alarm and that is simply not enough,” Miller said. “There should be working smoke alarms on every level of the home, in every bedroom and in the basement.”
Miller recommended installing the 10-year lithium battery-powered smoke alarm that is sealed and cannot be tampered with, and the newer, interconnected smoke alarms that offer the best protection because when one sounds, they all do. Smoke alarms should be tested at least once a month using the test button and the batteries replaced every year.
For additional information about preventing fires and staying safe, go to the NFPA Fire Prevention Week website at www.firepreventionweek.org.