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Safe Kids Carroll: Creating and practicing a fire safety plan could make all the difference in case of a house fire

Don’t let another day go by without planning and practicing your home fire escape plan — you never know when you may need to use it.

As well as being prepared to escape a fire, it is equally important to be vigilant about preventing a fire from happening in the first place. Many times there is something that you can do so that a fire doesn’t start, like paying attention to what you are cooking, for example.

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Cooking is the number one cause of home fires and unattended cooking is the leading cause of fire. The next time you have dinner on the stove and think about leaving the room, think again.

If you and your neighbors have not taken the time to plan and practice your home fire escape plan, unfortunately you are not alone. Nationally studies show that only 23% of households have a plan. This is something that can literally mean the difference between surviving a fire or being the victim of one.

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Today’s home fires burn faster than ever. In a typical home fire, you may have as little as one to two minutes to escape safely from the time the smoke alarm sounds. Knowing how to use that time wisely takes planning and practice.

Safety tips

· Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home and have one inside each sleeping area and outside of each sleeping area.

· Test smoke alarms at least once a month; change the batteries when time changes.

· Smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years or when the manufacturer suggests.

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· Develop a fire escape plan that identifies two ways out of each room and a family meeting place outside.

· Make sure your plan allows for any specific needs in your household. If everyone knows what to do, everyone can get out quickly.

· Practice using the plan, at least twice a year. If everyone knows that everyone else is ready to exit quickly; no one will lose precious time trying to help someone who doesn’t need help.

· Some children and adults may not awaken to the sound of the smoke alarm. They may need help to wake up.

Home fire sprinklers are a crucial, life-saving technology, since sprinklers can reduce the risk of dying from home fires by 80 percent and can reduce the risk of property loss by 70 percent.

Halloween fire safety tips

· Use a battery-operated candle or glow stick in jack-o-lanterns.

· When choosing costumes, stay away from long trailing fabric.

· Teach children to stay away from open flames, including jack-o-lanterns with candles in them.

· Dried flowers, cornstalks, and crepe paper catch fire easily. Keep all decorations away from open flames and other heat sources like light bulbs and heaters.

· Provide children with flashlights to carry for lighting or glow sticks as part of their costume.

· Remember to keep exits clear of decorations so nothing blocks escape routes. Make sure all smoke alarms are working.

Home fire sprinklers are a crucial, life-saving technology, since sprinklers can reduce the risk of dying from home fires by 80 percent and can reduce the risk of property loss by 70%.

For more information, visit NFPA.org or call your local volunteer fire company.

Maggie Rauser is the Safe Kids coordinator with the Carroll County Health Dept.

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