October has national Fire Prevention week but fires are very common during the winter holidays because of the use of candles, the fireplace, and other heating elements. Home and Living has been talking to the folks from First Alert who conducted a survey of 1,000 people and we were surprised to find out that: a majority (79 percent) of Americans reported having a home escape plan in place in case of fire however, but more than half (51 percent) have never practiced it, and 29 percent have only practiced it once. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends planning an emergency escape route and practicing it twice annually, while other fire safety organizations promote monthly drills to improve reaction time in case of an emergency.
“It is encouraging that so many people have given thought to a fire escape plan, but unpracticed, it cannot be as effective,” said Deborah Hanson, director of external affairs for First Alert, a leader in residential fire and carbon monoxide (CO) detection devices.
To develop an effective fire escape plan, First Alert and the NFPA offer the following tips:
- Involve everyone in your household in developing a plan. Walk through your home and inspect all possible exits and escape routes. Identify two ways out of each room, including windows and doors. Make sure everyone in the home understands the plan.
- Install smoke alarms throughout the home and test them monthly. Change batteries every six months to ensure proper function.
- Choose an outside meeting place (i.e. neighbor’s house, a light post, mailbox, or stop sign) a safe distance in front of your home where everyone can meet after they’ve escaped.
- Have everyone memorize the emergency phone number of the fire department. That way any member of the household can call from a neighbor’s home or a cellular phone once safely outside.
- Once you’re out, stay out! Under no circumstances should you ever go back into a burning building. If someone is missing, inform the fire department dispatcher when you call. Firefighters have the skills and equipment to perform rescues.
Practice your home fire escape plan at least twice a year, making drills as realistic as possible. Allow children to master fire escape planning and practice before holding a fire drill at night when they are sleeping. The objective is to practice, not to frighten, so telling children there will be a drill before they go to bed can be as effective as a surprise drill.
If children fail to awaken, make sure that someone is assigned to wake them up as part of the drill and in a real emergency situation. Also, consider switching to voice-enabled alarms such as the new Child Awakening Alarm from First Alert. This technologically-advanced alarm uses a loud, pre-recorded and tamper-proof human voice to alert residents in case of smoke or unhealthy levels of CO and also to the specific location of the hazard within the home.
Where to Place Them
To ensure the highest level of protection from smoke and CO, the NFPA recommends installing smoke alarms:
- at the top of each staircase and,
- one in every bedroom or sleeping area
For CO alarms, homes should have at least one CO alarm on each level, including the basement, and one in or near every bedroom or sleeping area. To put this into perspective, the average-sized U.S. home–a two-story, three bedroom house–would need a minimum of four smoke alarms and five CO alarms to comply with NFPA guidelines.
For more information and a complete home safety checklist, visit http://www.firstalert.com/safety_checklist.php.
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