Several Minutes to Save Lives in Fires


Daylight Savings time starts Sunday at 1 A.M. When you set your clocks forward, it is prudent to change your smoke alarm/carbon monoxide detector batteries as well. The batteries need to be changed at least once a year and this is a perfect time to remember. If your alarms and detectors are electrically operated, install batteries anyway so they will function during a power failure. Although it is recommended to have at least one detector /alarm on each level of your home, each sleeping area should have one alarm installed inside the door. Test each alarm/detector monthly to be sure that they are operating properly. It only takes a few minutes to install an alarm/detector or new batteries. These minutes, however, might save a precious life or valuable possessions.
This is also a great time to design a fire escape plan for your family. Involve even your youngest children in making this plan so that they can understand what to do in the event of a fire and can ask you any questions they have. Here are some tips on designing your own escape plan. Every room, especially sleeping areas, needs two means of escape, such as the door and a window. Make sure that your family members can open the windows in their own bedroom. If you live in a multi-story home, each bedroom should have a fire escape ladder in an easily accessible location. The bedroom occupant needs to understand and have the physical dexterity to operate the ladder. Your escape plan needs to have a “safe spot.” This is a location outside of the home where your family can gather safely in the event of a fire. This spot could simply be your mailbox. Make sure children know that if a closed door is hot to the touch to use their secondary exit. Test your fire escape plan at least twice a year. It is wise to hold one at night, as this is the time when most fires occur. Do not tell the rest of the family that it is going to be a test. You can make it seem real by pressing the test button on the alarms. This way you will also be able to test the effectiveness of the alarms on sleeping children. Was the alarm noisy enough to wake the children? This is a way for you to know if you will need to awaken them in the event of a real fire. You may want to make the tests fun for your children by making it into a game. You could tell them that there is fire outside of their main exit or see who can escape to the “safe spot” the quickest. Maybe you tell them that the smoke is very dense so they will need to crawl out of their safe exit. Remember to crawl low under smoke because the cleanest air is closest to the floor. Remind your children, and yourself, of “Stop, Drop, and Roll” if your clothes catch on fire. Stop walking, never run. Drop gently to the floor and cover your face with your hands. Roll over and over until the fire is smothered. Remind everyone that in the event of a real fire, NEVER re-enter a burning home, even if a family member has not made it outside. This is difficult, especially for parents or others responsible for the well-being of children. The safest thing is to wait for the arrival of the fire department, though it may seem like an eternity before they arrive. Make sure you tell the 9-1-1 operator that a child or other person is still inside the structure as this will give the firefighters advance notice that a rescue effort is needed upon their arrival. Once you notice the activation of your smoke alarms, get out as quickly and safely as possible. Never linger inside or re-enter the home to rescue pets or belongings. Once out, stay out!
Nationally, from 2005-2010, two-thirds of deaths related to fires in the home occurred because the homes did not have working smoke alarms. So far several families in our community have lost their homes due to fire this year. Thankfully, no one received injuries related to the fires. Fortunately, Nassau County has not suffered the tragedy of someone killed in a structure fire in several years. Let us keep it that way!

Submitted by:
Rachel Benoit
Public Information Officer
Ratliff Community Volunteer Fire Department
March 8, 2012


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