By Beverly Hopps
Health Educator, Safe Kids WNC/Mission Children’s Hospital
In honor of Fire Prevention Week, be sure you know these important tips to protect your family from the dangers of fire.
Working smoke alarms reduce the chance of dying in a fire by nearly 50 percent. For the best protection, install smoke alarms on every level of your home, outside every sleeping area and in each bedroom. It is best to use interconnected smoke alarms, so that when one sounds, they all sound.
Smoke alarms should be tested every month, and batteries in conventional smoke alarms should be replaced every 6 months. Use daylight saving time as a reminder to replace batteries, even if alarms are wired directly into your home’s electrical system.
Smoke alarms should be replaced after 10 years. If your smoke alarm is more than 10 years old, you should install a new one.
It is also important to create and practice a fire escape plan. In fact, you should know two ways out of your house in case of a fire. Practice it with your children. Get a stopwatch and time how fast your family can escape. As part of your plan, designate one person to get infants and small children out safely. Have a backup plan in case the primary person is overcome by smoke.
Smoke is toxic. Teach children to “get low and go” if there is smoke when they are leaving the house. Practice feeling the door, doorknob and cracks around the door with the back of your hand to see if they are too hot. Choose a place to meet outside that is a safe distance away from your home.
In the event of a fire, grab your family and leave the home immediately. Once you are out of the house, stay out. Wait to call 911 until you are safely out of the home. If you cannot safely escape your home, keep smoke out of the room by covering vents and cracks around the door and call 911 as quickly as possible.
There are several things you can do to prevent a fire in your home. Keep space heaters at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn, and closely supervise children and pets when the heater is turned on. Turn space heaters off when you leave the room.
Avoid plugging several appliance cords into the same electrical outlet. Use common sense in the kitchen. Limit distractions when cooking and don’t leave a hot oven or stovetop unattended. Have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and be sure you know how to use it. Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn, and always blow them out when you leave the room or before you go to sleep. Teach children to never play with matches or lighters.