The National Fire Protection Association 2011 fire report identified that U.S. fire departments responded to 390,000 fires that occurred in residential occupancies. Of the 3,000 fatalities caused by fire, 2,500 of the fatalities occurred in residential occupancies with the highest percentage of fatalities occurring between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., when most people are sleeping.
So, imagine that it is 2 a.m. and you hear your smoke detector sounding, would you know what to do? Would your family know what to do? Experts say once a fire breaks out, you may have less than four minutes before primary exits are blocked by raging flames and toxic black smoke.
The key to surviving a fire in your home is to be prepared. All homes should be equipped with a working smoke detectors on every level of the home including inside each sleeping area as well as directly outside of the sleeping areas. Equipping your home with working smoke detectors will provide early warning if a fire breaks out, but it will not guarantee that you will be able to safely exit your home. If primary exits are blocked, a second means of egress will be your only chance for survival. Developing a fire escape plan customized to your home will help your family determine the safest way to exit the home if a fire breaks out. Below are some general information on smoke detectors and some general guidelines for developing a fire escape plan for your home.
Smoke alarms are an important part of a home fire escape plan. When there is a fire, smoke spreads fast. Working smoke detectors give you early warning so you can get outside quickly.
Tips for Placing and Maintaining Smoke Detectors
- INSTALL smoke alarms inside every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement. Larger homes may need additional smoke alarms to provide enough protection.
- CHECK all smoke alarms once per month. A smoke detector can be checked by pressing the test button on the detector; once the button is depressed the detector should sound. If the detector does not sound, replace the battery, and then repeat testing procedure. If the detector does not operate after replacing the battery, replace the detector.
- CHANGE the batteries in the smoke detector twice per year. Daylight savings is a good reminder, change your clock, change your battery.
- REPLACE all smoke detectors that are ten years old or greater. A manufacturing date should appear on the detector, if no date is present the detector should be replaced immediately.
Plan ahead! If fire breaks out in your home, you may have only a few minutes to get out safely once the smoke detector sounds. Everyone needs to know what to do and where to go if there is a fire.
Tips for Creating a Fire Escape Plan
- MAKE a home escape plan. Draw a map of your home showing all doors and windows. Discuss the plan with everyone in your home.
- KNOW at least two ways out of every room, if possible. Make sure all doors and windows leading outside open easily.
- HAVE an outside meeting place (like a tree, light pole, or mail box) a safe distance from the home where everyone should meet.
- PRACTICE your home fire drill at night and during the day with everyone in your home, twice a year.
- PRACTICE using different ways out
- TEACH your children how to escape on their own in case you can’t help them.
- CLOSE doors behind you when you leave.
- GET OUT AND STAY OUT. Never go back inside for anything.
- STAY LOW AND GO. Crawl to an exit, the closer to the floor the cleaner the air, smoke and toxic gases rise.
- CALL 911 from outside your home.