While fire safety technology and firefighting techniques are more advanced than ever, the ultimate responsibility for fire safety in your home still falls on you and your household. The smallest errant spark can spread through a home in minutes, and if caught unprepared, children and adults alike may not know how to respond. Thankfully, if you follow the five steps below, you can prepare your household on how to react should a fire ever occur in your home.
As with all dangers, prevention is the most invaluable measure. Be sure every member of your household has an age-appropriate understanding of how to safely handle – or not handle – all potential sources of fire. Possible ignition sources range from electronics and power plugs to appliances (especially ovens and cooktops) to matches and lighters. Keep dangerous materials locked away from young children and avoid demonstrating their use (such as lighting matches) in their presence so they don’t learn to imitate. Make sure your home has sufficient smoke alarms and fire extinguishers and that age-appropriate family members know how to maintain and operate them.
- Recognize and React
Educate everyone in your home on how to identify and respond to a fire. They should be familiarized with the sound of the home’s smoke alarms as well as the implications of smelling smoke or seeing flames. Young children who need help escaping a fire should be taught to call for help and not hide, so they are easy to locate and rescue.
Getting away from a fire isn’t always simple with the possibility of heavy smoke and blocked exits. Everyone should know two escape routes from every room and how to use them, including windows if necessary. Have a plan on how to ensure any children, pets, elderly and those with special needs can be escorted from the home in an emergency. Staying low to the floor to avoid smoke and testing doorknobs for heat to detect a fire on the other side are also important skills for escape. Additional plans may be needed for those in wildfire risk areas and high-rise buildings.
Have a prearranged meeting place for all members of your household to meet after escaping. This makes it evident as soon as possible as to who is safe and who may still need to be rescued. A safe, familiar location away from the home is ideal. In regions with cold winters or harsh weather, a neighbor’s home may be best.
Practice your plan as a household and be sure to update it as necessary. Switching occupants to new bedrooms, making modifications to the home (such as different windows or a new addition) or moving to a new home entirely are good reasons to refresh the plan.
With these steps mastered, you’ll have made a significant contribution to keeping your household safe from the danger of fires.