Did you know, 3 out of 5 deaths caused by fire could have been prevented by the simple task of making sure smoke alarms work in your home? It's as easy as 1 - grab a step stool, 2 - push the test button, 3 - change the batteries if the alarm is not working.
FYI, there should be alarms located inside and outside of each bedroom, and on each floor of a residence, even in the basement.
Aside from having working alarms in your home, your family should have an escape plan. It could take a fire/smoke as little as two minutes to overtake a person. When you hear the alarm, it's too late to make that plan. Make sure your family is aware of at least two exits in every room, through either a door or window. Ensure that these windows and doors can be opened. If they are painted or nailed shut, they will be of no use to you.
Have a meeting place away from the home. Pick a neighbors driveway or near a dumpster if you live in an apartment/condo complex. Just make sure you are a safe distance from the fire. If there are children in your family, encourage them not to hide. You don't want the temptation of running back into a burning building only to have a child hiding because they are frightened. If you happen to be separated from your family members, establish a family emergency contact. Make sure everyone knows the number of this person so you can be assured of everyone's safety in the chaos.
Practice your escape route from each room with everyone in your family. Beep, beep, beep! The alarm goes off. Get on your hands and knees and crawl to the nearest, safest exit. Do NOT stop to grab phones, shoes, clothes. If it is a fast burning fire, those few precious seconds mean life or death.
Once you are safely outside away from the fire and smoke, call 911. And, wait. Wait for the professionals to put out any fire and assess the situation before you attempt to return to your home.
If you notice you do not have one in each of these places, go here to order some online. If you can not afford to purchase detectors, are hearing impaired or disabled, the Red Cross may be able to help.
HOW TO PREVENT FIRES IN THE FIRST PLACE
1. Keep flammable items (blankets, clothing, towels) at least three feet away from heat sources, such as space heaters, stoves and fireplaces.
2. Smoking materials are the leading cause of residential fire deaths in the US. Avoid smoking in bed, when drowsy or on heavy medication. One little spark can create a messy situation.
3. Avoid smoking in homes with oxygen. O2 + Flame = Big Boom.
4. Teach children about fire safety. Keep matches and lighters out of their reach.
5. Turn off portable heaters when you leave a room or go to sleep.
6. Never leave a burning candle unattended.
There are many more ways to protect your home and yourselves from a fire. Visit redcross.org for escape plans and more fire safety habits.