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In a fire, every second counts. That’s the message of this year’s National Fire Prevention Week, which began Monday and continues through Saturday.

From the time you hear a smoke alarm sound, you might have less than 2 minutes to get out of your home safely, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. That’s why it’s recommended that families have an escape plan for their home in case of a fire.

Developing a plan doesn’t have to be complicated. The National Fire Protection Association offers several suggestions, starting with going to each room of your house and identifying two ways of escape, in case fire or smoke blocks the most obvious way out.

In many cases, a window will represent the second way out of a room. In that case, you should check to make sure the windows open easily from the inside and that everyone in the house can open them in case of an emergency, especially children. Part of a fire escape plan should be teaching children how to escape on their own in case you can’t help them, the NFPA advises. With that said, account for young children, older adults or people with disabilities who may be living or staying in the home and any special considerations to assist them getting outside.

Once you’ve determined your two ways out, look for anything that might block access to an escape, such as furniture, and consider how many precious seconds could tick away moving it if there were a fire.

Once escape routes are established, determine a meeting place outside the front of your house that is a safe distance from the home. The NFPA suggests something that will not move, such as a light pole or a neighbor’s porch. Once outside, in the event of a real fire, stay there. Never go back into a burning or smokey building until firefighters say it’s OK.

Finally, practice your plan at least twice a year. Practice using different ways out, as long as it is safe to do so. What might be worth the risk of minor injury in the case of a fire is obviously different than in a drill, but if the second egress does pose a risk of injury, such as a second-story window, consider tools like a rope ladder that could be used in case of emergency.

When you practice, do what you would do in case of a fire. That means staying close to the ground on the way out. Smoke inhalation hurts more people during a fire than actual flames do, and you’ll breath less toxic air if you stay low. Especially for younger children, practicing crawling during a fire drill will reinforce the behavior in the event of an actual fire.

Of course, the other major message of Fire Prevention Week is ensuring that smoke alarms are present and working throughout the home. The presence of smoke detectors can be the single-biggest lifesaver in the event of a fire. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, roughly three-quarters of fatal fires occur in residents without a smoke alarm or working smoke detector.

Smoke alarms should be installed outside every sleeping area and on every level of the home and, ideally, be interconnected so that when one goes off, they all do. Maryland law requires that 10-year sealed battery smoke alarms be installed. Test your alarms at least twice a year.

The Coos Bay Fire Department would also like to invite everyone to the Fire Department’s Open House to celebrate Fire Prevention Week. The event will be held at Station #1, 450 Elrod Ave., from 5 p.m. - 7 p.m. today. There will be free food, games for kids, and lots of fire prevention and fire safety information. The Coos Bay Fire Department will also be answering questions that you may have.

If you have questions please call the Coos Bay Fire Department at 541-269-1191.

The North Bend Fire Department’s annual Fire Prevention Month Open House will be held on Friday, October 13, 2017 from 5 pm to 8 pm at the department’s main fire station located at 1880 McPherson Street in North Bend.

The annual event features free hot dogs, soda pop and ice cream, in addition to face painting and antique fire truck rides.  A big hit each year is also the “Jump for Fun” children’s “blow up” slide and obstacle course.

The 2017 “Miss Flame” court will be on hand to assist in providing fire and life safety handouts, along with “Sparky the Fire Dog.”  For the little kiddies, free plastic fire helmets will also be free for the taking.

For more information or for work sheets and other activities to help children learn about fire safety in a nonthreatening way, visit www.firepreventionweek.org or www.nfpa.org.

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