If a fire occurred in your home tonight, would your family get out safely? When a fire occurs and smoke begins to fill your home, everyone must know what to do and where to go when the smoke alarm sounds. Too often, people panic in this situation because they do not know what to do. Develop a Fire Escape Plan and practice it regularly, ensuring that all family members and overnight guests know the escape plan.
The first step in escaping a fire in the home is to plan ahead. By installing smoke detectors in the home and being sure they are in good working order, family members can be alerted to the presence of smoke or fire before it is too late. Be sure to change the batteries in your smoke detectors and test them twice a year when you change your clocks.
When you hear a smoke alarm going off or perhaps someone is yelling “FIRE” or “SMOKE”, you may only have a few minutes to safely exit before smoke and heat fill the inside of your home. Unless it is a small fire that can quickly and easily be put out with a fire extinguisher, it is always best to get out and stay out and dial 9-1-1 to notify the Fire Department.
Even if the fire isn’t large, there is a good chance the entire home can fill with smoke. The heat and gases associated with smoke can kill occupants far more quickly than the actual flames. Each member of your family should understand the importance of crawling low under smoke. As smoke and heat rise, the best place to find fresher and cooler air is near the floor. When approaching a door, feel the back of the door before opening it. If it is hot, do not open it and seek another exit. If you find yourself trapped, always close doors between you and the smoke. Doors will do a good job of holding back smoke by stuffing the cracks and covering vents to keep smoke out. If there is a phone available, call in your exact location to the Fire Department. Wait at the window and signal with a sheet, piece of clothing or anything visible that will draw attention to the window.
Parents, be sure to involve your children in the planning and practicing of your home fire escape plan and it might just surprise you how much children will enjoy it. After you have practiced it a few times, perform the fire drill with an exit blocked or perhaps without any lights on in the home. Always be sure to enforce with children that they should never hide from fire under the bed, in a closet, or in a bathroom, but should exit the home as quickly and safely as they can.
A special meeting place should be established a safe distance from the house. It could be a mailbox, neighbor’s driveway, or perhaps a large tree. Whatever it is, it must be something that is stationary and won’t be moved. This safe meeting place is where everyone meets in the event of a fire. It also prevents family members from wandering around the neighborhood looking for one another, or worse, being tempted to re-enter the burning house for someone thought to be trapped inside. Once outside at the safe meeting place, a member can be sent to the neighbor’s to call 9-1-1. If anyone is missing, give that information to the Fire Department immediately and inform them where the probable location of the missing person could be. Under no circumstances should anyone re-enter the burning home.
Remember, the first step toward escaping a fire is to plan ahead. Practice your home fire escape plan throughout the year and be sure that if anything should change around the home, it is included in the home fire escape plan. Practicing this plan is crucial to helping you and your family remain calm and confident during an actual emergency.
These and other Fire Safety Tips can be found on the Mattapoisett Fire Department web page at www.mattapoisett.net. Any additional questions regarding Fire Safety, contact Lt. Patrick Saltmarsh at 508-758-4150 or by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Lt. Patrick Saltmarsh, Mattapoisett Fire Department