By Tom Kiurski
Most people place as much importance on family fire safety as they do on rearranging their sock drawers. But when you consider that more than 80 percent of all fire deaths in the United States occur in residences, it just makes good sense to have your community take a few minutes to devise their home fire escape plan.
Here are some things to consider as you work to promote family safety in your community.
Overhead plansMeet groups in your community and have them map out an overhead plan of their homes on a piece of paper and draw in the walls that let them see a "birds eye" view of each room. If they have more than one floor, put each floor on a separate piece of paper.
Have the families mark in the primary escape path for each room in the house, usually consisting of following the door out of a room and out the main door of the house. Then, have them make a secondary escape path, in case the primary path is blocked by heat, smoke and/or fire. This is usually a window out of each room. They need to make sure they open freely, and that the person who normally sleeps in bedrooms can easily open them. An outside meeting place is a necessity.
Smoke alarmsThese are an inexpensive way to get an early warning in case there is smoke in their homes. There is a lot of talk about types of sensing technology, and we should suggest that they spend a bit more on smoke alarms that have "dual sensing technology," that includes both ionization and photoelectric sensing chambers.
There should be a minimum of one smoke alarm per floor, with units outside of any sleeping area. Having more only increases their warning time, so they should avoid a few places prone to nuisance alarms such as bathrooms, kitchens and by fireplaces.
Safety laddersFor those in your audience who have family members who sleep upstairs, and slipping out a window onto the ground is not an option, they should purchase safety ladders. They are compact and fit nicely under a bed or in a closet until needed. They simply hook onto the window sill and can be descended from there. They are available in two- and three-story models, so measure how far from window to ground each homeowner needs and have them purchase the appropriate ladder.
Fire extinguishersThese make good sense to have in any home to extinguish small fires that may break out while citizens are close by. Most home fires start in the kitchen, so it makes great sense to keep one there. If they want to get a few more, the garage and basement are good places to keep them. Suggest they only purchase extinguishers rated for “A, B and C” type fires, as these cover any fire they may have in their home. Teach those in your class and have them pass on to the family how to use them, but ensure they never delay calling the fire department in order to use a portable fire extinguisher.
You should stress to them that the most important part of any family safety plan is practicing the plan with all members of the family present. The hardest part is the few minutes needed to develop the plan, but you can present it as a fun, family assignment. The easy part is practicing it at least twice a year. Tom Kiurski has been in the fire service since 1981. He is the Training Coordinator and Director of Fire Safety Education for Livonia, Mich., Fire & Rescue. He has served as a firefighter/paramedic, engineer and lieutenant prior to his appointment as the training coordinator. He has earned an Associates Degree in Fire Science from Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, Mich., a Bachelors Degree in Fire and Safety Engineering Technology from the University of Cincinnati and a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Eastern Michigan University. Tom teaches fire service-related courses at local colleges and fire academies. He has presented at the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) in Indianapolis seven times, as well as numerous state and local conferences. He has written more than 250 articles on fire safety education and training that have appeared in various fire service publications.