Focus on fire safety: Protect your family from fire

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fires can strike anywhere – in structures, buildings, automobiles, and the outdoors – but fires that affect our homes are often the most tragic and the most preventable. Over 75 percent of all fire fatalities occur in home fires.

This year’s National Fire Prevention Week theme is “Protect Your Family from Fire.” You can protect your family by:

• Installing smoke alarms on every level of your home,

• Testing smoke alarms once a month,

• Changing smoke alarm batteries at least once a year, and

• Making and practicing a home fire escape plan.

Smoke alarms

Fires can occur in a variety of ways and in any room of your home. But no matter where or how, having a smoke alarm is the first key step toward your family’s safety. A smoke alarm stands guard around the clock, and when it first senses smoke, it sounds a shrill alarm. This often allows a family the precious but limited time it takes to escape.

Properly installed and maintained smoke alarms are considered to be one

of the best and least expensive means of providing an early warning of a potentially deadly fire

and could reduce the risk of dying from a fire in your home by almost half.

Residential fire sprinklers

Smoke alarms can only alert you and your family to a fire in the home – they cannot contain or extinguish a fire. Residential sprinkler systems can!

Using quick response sprinklers and approved piping, homes can be built or even retrofitted to include low-cost automatic sprinkler systems connected to the domestic water supply.

Most importantly, sprinklers give occupants extra time to escape from a burning home.

Escape plans

In the event of a fire, remember – time is the biggest enemy and every second counts! Escape plans help you get out of your home quickly. In less than 30 seconds a small flame can get completely out of control and turn into a major fire.

It is important to:

• Practice your escape plan every month.

• Plan two ways out of every room.

• Leave your home when a fire occurs.

• Designate a meeting place away from your home.

• Get out and stay out! Never return to a burning building!

Fire extinguishers

The use of a fire extinguisher in the hands of a trained adult can be a life- and property-saving tool. However, a majority of adults have not had fire extinguisher training and may not know how and when to use them. Fire extinguisher use requires a sound decision making process and training on their proper use and maintenance.

For this reason, USFA recommends that only those trained in the proper use and maintenance of fire extinguishers consider using them when appropriate.

Michael Heath is president of the St. John Professional Firefighters Association.