While fire can provide warmth and safety, it also can cause immediate and significant damage that can uproot lives and devastate homes. Because fire is such a formidable foe, it’s imperative that people from all walks of life have a fire safety plan.
The threat of fire
The National Fire Protection Association says U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 358,500 home structure fires per year between 2011 and 2015. On average, seven people die in U.S. home fires per day. The Ontario Ministry of Community Safety & Correctional Services says 48 percent of fires that cause severe losses occur in residential properties. Both the NFPA and the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management in Ontario state that cooking-related fires are the most prevalent, followed by fires sparked by heating equipment.
How quickly fire can spread may surprise some people. The Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department says that in the average two-story home fire, fire ignites in 30 seconds, smoke pours into most rooms by 2.5 minutes, and roughly 4.5 minutes after the fire has ignited, flames can be visible from the exterior of a house. Temperatures inside can grow from 190 F to more than 1400 F in two minutes.
Planning is critical
When fires ignite, time is of the essence to make a fast evacuation. Unfortunately, panic may set in and people may not know how to act when under such acute stress. That’s why planning for the event of fire can provide families with the information they need to evacuate safely. Evacuation plans and drills should be established and practiced frequently so that getting out alive becomes second nature. However, only about one-quarter of households have actually developed and practiced a home-fire escape plan, according to the NFPA.
The following guidelines can help families customize their fire escape plans.
- Find two ways out. Look at your home’s layout and identify two ways out of every room, if possible. Walk around the house in each room and practice what to do if a fire broke out in that space, offers Safe Kids Worldwide.
- Choose an outside meeting place. Establish a spot to meet a safe distance in front of the home where everyone can gather after they’ve gotten out safely.
- Assign help to those with mobility issues. Elderly adults, infants or young children may have difficulty escaping on their own. Plan a buddy system so that a key person in the household is responsible for rousing and helping another from the house.
- Check fire protection. Be sure that there is a working smoke alarm in every bedroom and on every level of the house.
- Drop it low. Heat and smoke rise and escaping on hands and knees is essential for survival.
- Practice several times a year. Conduct a fire drill a few times each year, and choose a different escape route each time. Invest in a UI-certified collapsible rescue ladder and attach it at least once, advises The Fire Department of New York, in case a second-story evacuation is necessary.