As we move into our fall season, evening campfires may be something your family and friends look forward to. Who doesn’t love hanging around a cozy campfire wrapped in blankets, roasting marshmallows and having an adult beverage? As you enjoy the sounds, smells and colors that the fire makes as it blazes safely inside the fire ring, let those sparks be the spark that reminds you to think about home fire prevention.
The theme for this year’s Fire Prevention Week of October 8-14 is “Every Second Counts: Plan Two Ways Out.” What an important message to plan two ways out of a fire. It makes sense that one of the ways you had planned to use may not work out when the urgency of this situation presents itself. How scary. It is hard enough to think when something like this happens. Your brain is in shock. Your body moves by reflex. It makes sense to have two ways figured out ahead of time that can jolt you into action.
The website for the National Fire Protection www.firepreventionweek.org shows the key messages for this year:
- 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.
- Practice your home fire drill twice a year. Conduct one at night and one during the day with everyone in your home, and practice using different ways out.
- Teach children how to escape on their own in case you can’t help them.
- Make sure the number of your home is clearly marked and easy for the fire department to find.
- Close doors behind you as you leave – this may slow the spread of smoke, heat, and fire.
- Once you get outside, stay outside. Never go back inside a burning building
Take advice from someone who has had a house fire. Me! My house fire nightmare was seven years ago in the middle of the night. My husband and I were sleeping in our second floor bedroom until I was first awakened by the sound of our smoke alarm. As I awoke from sleep, I immediately noticed the smell of smoke. I jumped out of bed, turned on the light and hollered at my husband to wake up. Our bedroom had a light layer of smoke in it and so did our hallway. As we ran downstairs, we could see there was even more smoke on the first floor. Once my husband opened our basement door, thick smoke poured out and made us realize that the fire was in the basement. Then we saw the fireball. To this day, that fireball was one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen in my life. We got lucky. Thankfully, the fire was put out quickly and we didn’t have much damage to our home. After investigation of our fire by the house insurance company, they figured out the fire was from a blown seal on a spray paint can that blew toward the pilot light on our hot water heater. It caused other spray paint cans located in the same plastic milk carton crate to start burning and blowing up, too. Paint was everywhere and that entire area of my basement looked like a Jackson Pollock painting. What did we learn from this freak accident? Don’t keep anything like spray paint cans near something that has a flame, like a hot water heater or furnace. Go home and check where your spray paint cans are located. Seriously. Get them away from a fire source.
We were fortunate in that we had numerous ways to get out of our home on the first floor. Our second floor has the stairway and windows to attach a home fire escape ladder. This ladder helps exit an upper floor of your home in a fire. It stays folded up neatly for compact storage in a box under a bed or in a closet. But if needed, this steel ladder with rungs can be quickly hung over a window sill to allow getting out of the second floor safely if the stairs are inaccessible. Look into them. There are many different types on the market.
Fire Prevention Week is the longest running public health and safety observance on record. Make this a time, along with changing the batteries in your smoke detectors or getting your fireplace cleaned, that you work on a family plan for fire safety. Let’s all make fire prevention a fall habit.