By Robert W. Seltzer

Do you know how to get out?

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) statistics show that in 2017 U.S. fire departments responded to 357,000 home structure fires. These fires caused 2,630 fire deaths and 10,600 fire injuries. On average, seven people died in a fire in a home per day during 2012 to 2016.

These numbers show that home fires continue to pose a significant threat to safety. 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. Escape planning and practice can help you make the most of the time you have, giving everyone enough time to get out.

While NFPA and the Smithfield Fire Department are focusing on home fires, these messages apply to virtually any location.

Situational awareness is a skill people need to use wherever they go. No matter where you are, look for available exits. If the alarm system sounds, take it seriously and exit the building immediately.

In order to prepare your family, develop a Home Fire Escape PLAN and PRACTICE the plan.

Home fire escape planning and drills are an essential part of fire safety. A home fire escape plan needs to be developed and practiced before a fire strikes.

Home fire escape PLANNING should include the following:

Drawing a map of each level of the home, showing all doors and windows
Going to each room and pointing to the two ways out
Making sure someone will help children, older adults, and people with disabilities wake up and get out
Teaching children how to escape on their own in case you cannot help them
Establishing a meeting place outside and away from the home where everyone can meet after exiting
Having properly installed and maintained smoke alarms

Home fire escape PRACTICE should include the following:

Pushing the smoke alarm button to start the drill
Practicing what to do in case there is smoke: Get low and go. Get out fast.
Practicing using different ways out and closing doors behind you as you leave
Never going back for people, pets, or things
Going to your outdoor meeting place
Calling 9-1-1 or the local emergency number from a cell phone or a neighbor’s phone

Do not forget about your Smoke Alarms!

Smoke alarms detect and alert people to a fire in the early stages. Smoke alarms can mean the difference between life and death in a fire.

Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in a home fire in half.

Remember to replace batteries every 6 months
Smoke alarms 10 years old or older must be replaced
Test your smoke alarm once a month
Don’t forget Carbon Monoxide! Include carbon monoxide detectors in your house