When the topic of disaster comes up, we tend to think in terms of earthquakes, hurricanes, and blizzards as those are the events that get all the attention However, in reality residential fires are the most common disaster nationwide. Every year more than 2,500 people die (that’s seven people per day) and nearly 13,000 are injured in home fires across the nation.
Deaths and injuries can be minimized when families establish and practice a home fire escape plan. The American Red Cross says on average you have only two minutes to escape a structure fire. The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends practicing your home fire escape plan twice a year.
Here are some tips:
Find two ways to get out of each room.
If a primary exit is blocked, you will need an alternate escape route. A second story room might mean using a ladder to get to safety.
Make sure windows aren’t stuck and screens can be easily removed. If security bars are in place, make sure they can be properly opened.
Practice feeling your way out of the house in the dark or with your eyes closed.
Place smoke alarms on every floor of your home. The Red Cross recommends placing one in each bedroom.
Replace your batteries every year, and replace your smoke alarms every 10 years.
Fewer and fewer households in our region are burning wood for heat anymore, but if you still enjoy the comforting warmth of a wood fire, make sure your chimney is cleaned and inspected each year. Various kinds of wood burn in various ways. Some burn slowly and some burn faster. Different kinds of wood and different conditions leave various levels of creosote inside the chimney. Every chimney should be inspected annually for safety and cleaned, if necessary.
Successfully preparing for the disaster of a home fire is no accident. It just may save your life and the lives of your loved ones.
Disaster preparedness isn’t rocket science. Simply consider a game of “what if” and then make plans for what can go wrong. Lay in supplies, keep your gas tank on the upper half and always have a back-up plan. Many years ago when I was a student pilot, my flight instructor told me that a pilot always keeps an emergency landing area in mind, just in case. This is no small feat in Western Oregon where there isn’t an abundance of flat, level farmland on which to park an airplane. The point being, you’ve always got to have a plan in mind in the event the whole system collapses. It helps to plan ahead.
This is never about causing fear, this is about stimulating some thought and preparing for the “just in case” events that may or may not come your way.
As always, send your comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dave Robinson is an author, pastor, and freelance writer. He is the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and other online bookstores.