In Case of Fire
In a mere matter of moments, fire can engulf a home. There is no time to gather precious items, your only thought is to get yourself and loved ones to safety. The majority of people, who die in a fire, actually succumb to smoke inhalation. Breathing in heated air and smoke causes asphyxiation. It is vital to have an emergency plan that includes emergency contacts, escape routes, how to safely exit during a fire, and alocation to meet once each person has escaped.
If your home has multiple levels, consider purchasing escape ladders. These reinforced collapsible ladder attached to the window sill and allows safe egress to the ground. Part of your emergency escape plan may include a central bedroom for all family members to meet and then escape together through a window using an emergency ladder.
Public service announcements are run daily that emphasize the importance of smoke detectors in every home. Smoke detectors can save lives, but only if they are functioning. When you change your clocks in the spring and fall, change the batteries in your smoke detectors. Now, if you are in a newly constructed home or renovated one, the developer or general contractor should have equipped your place with hardwired smoke detectors. This is a code requirement today, and the unit should also function as a carbon monoxide detector. These units do have a battery installed for backup in the event of a power outage. In the case of smoke detectors, more is better than less, so install one near sleeping areas and near the kitchen – this one can be a few feet away to prevent it from going off with burnt toast, in addition to the hardwired one. There should be a hardwired smoke/carbon monoxide detector installed near your gas furnace and hot water tank to alert you of any gas leaks.
Electrical fires are especially deadly as there is no warning and it can spread through the wiring to various locations throughout the home. Have the wiring in your home inspected by a professional. It is always better to be safe than sorry. Don’t overload extension cords or run cords under carpet or through high traffic areas.
As we approach winter in Chicago, many people use mobile heating sources in order to endure the below freezing weather. These units should be monitored, positioned away from fabrics and paper, at least three feet. Make sure your home is properly insulated, which will also cut down on your heating and cooling bills and creates fire separation between floors.
Be careful of open flames, store matches away from little hands, and make sure to use a fire screen and keep the fireplace clean.
FEMA also suggests that you sleep with the bedroom door closed and have fire extinguishers inside your home to put out small fires. Most high-rise buildings incorporate sprinkler systems within each unit, and this concept is beginning to be employed in single family residences today as well. You have water pipes installed throughout the walls and ceiling of your home, consider having a sprinkler system added. It is better to have them and not need them, than to need them and not have them.
No one wants to think about a fire, the loss, the destruction, the injuries that can occur are life-altering, but things can and do happen. While you may not be able to prevent a fire, you can have all the tools and a plan in place to minimize the damage and help to recover quickly.
For more information, visit FEMA’s Fire Preparedness page.