Protecting your home is a daily responsibility, from locking up and alarming your doors to child-proofing and mold prevention. But since October just happens to be Fire Safety Month, let’s shift our focus, get proactive and establish an action plan.
Install a smoke alarm.
Make sure you have a working smoke alarm in place. According to the National Fire Protection Association, installing a smoke alarm cuts the chances of dying in a fire in half. There are two basic types of smoke alarms: ionization and photoelectric. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) recommends that all residences should be equipped with both types or a dual-sensor smoke alarm, which contains both kinds of smoke sensors. People with hearing disabilities should invest in an alarm that uses strobe lights that flash and/or vibrate.
Smoke alarms are powered by battery or hardwired into the home’s electrical system. If your smoke alarm uses a battery, be sure to test it on a regular basis; usually, a battery should be replaced at least once a year (except for lithium batteries).
And according to the USFA, you will need to replace your smoke alarm if it was installed before Oct. 3, 2001.
Make a fire escape plan.
A small flame can turn into a major fire in less than 30 seconds, according to the USFA — which means you and your family need to set up and practice an escape plan so everyone can get out of the house quickly. You should consider the following tips when creating your plan:
• Determine two ways to exit each room;
• Make sure you have a secondary route, such as a window onto a neighboring roof or a collapsible ladder from upper-story windows;
• Only purchase collapsible ladders evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratory;
• Make sure that windows are not stuck and screens can be taken out quickly;
• If your windows and doors have security bars, make sure they have quick-release devices;
• Practice feeling your way out of the house in the dark; and
• Designate a meeting place outside, such as a specific tree, the end of the driveway or front sidewalk, once you and your family have escaped, and take attendance.
Perform a fire-safety walkthrough.
Do this on a regular basis and note the following:
• Keep items that can easily catch on fire at least 3 ft. from space heaters and stove burners;
• Make sure space heaters are secure;
• Have a professional clean and inspect chimneys each year;
• Clean the area around trash, flammables and decorative items;
• Don’t leave the kitchen when cooking;
• Make sure cigarettes are completely stubbed out; and
• Don’t overload electrical sockets.
If a fire starts, leave your home immediately. (Use a fire extinguisher when appropriate, but the USFA recommends that only those trained in the proper use of fire extinguishers should use them.) If you need to escape through smoke, crawl low and cover your mouth. Do not open doors that are hot to the touch. Use the back of your hand to feel the top of the door, doorknob and the crack between the door and door frame to check if there is a fire on the other side. If the door feels cool, open it carefully and slowly; and if heat and smoke comes in, slam the door shut and securely close it. Do not go back into a burning building under any circumstances.
The following resources provide additional fire safety information: