If you were like me growing up, you loved practicing fire drills and learning from the local fire departments when they would visit your school. You took pride in knowing how to “stop, drop and roll,” and you may have even taken time to show off how you had perfected the technique to anyone that asked. Somewhere along the line, though, we stopped hearing about fire prevention. In our busy lives, we tend to become complacent when it comes to fire alarms sounding, and fire drills become a thing of the past unless required occasionally in your work environment.
We go home at the end of a long day, cook dinner, do laundry, and never think about the possibility that either of those or any number of other things could cause a fire in our own home. You’re not alone if you haven’t thought about or planned an escape route for your house. And there are also probably some of us who forget to test the smoke alarms regularly. But with home fires accounting for seven deaths per day on average and a new home fire being reported every 86 seconds, we need to bring back the discussion on home fire prevention.
A perfect time to start is Fire Prevention Week this October 8th-14th. This year’s theme is “Every Second Counts … Plan 2 Ways Out!™” In the event of a fire, every second counts, so take a few minutes this week to create a home fire escape plan so you and your family are prepared! There are many online resources available to help you get started. The National Fire Protection Association (http://www.firepreventionweek.org) has a lot of information to help you start the discussion. Their escape grid is a great resource to draw a map of your home with all members of your household, marking two exits from each room and a path to the outside from each exit. You can also check out the U.S. Fire Administration (https://www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/outreach/escape.html) for materials to teach your community more about why it is important to have a home fire escape plan.
A fire can become lethal in as little as two minutes, and by five minutes flames can engulf an entire residence. So this Fire Prevention Week, I challenge you to reexamine your knowledge about home fires and set aside a few minutes with your family and friends to discuss fire prevention.
Kristen Kolleda, MPH, is a senior program manager for emergency preparedness with Greenville Health System.