By Carter Hall, College Station Firefighter
Home fires kill an average of about seven people every day. But did you know almost half of those are children under the age of five?
Most young kids don’t understand fire dangers and are incapable of knowing how to get out of a burning building. As adults, it’s our responsibility to take precautions such as installing smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, reducing fire risks, and practicing a fire escape plan.
Smoke, Carbon Monoxide Alarms
About 60 percent of home fire deaths happen in homes that don’t have a working smoke alarm. While you can take steps to reduce the danger, no single way exists to eliminate every fire hazard. Alarms serve as a first alert that lets your family know of imminent danger, providing valuable time to enact your escape plan.
Smoke alarms should be installed on every floor of your home and near each sleeping area. You should test the alarm every month, change the batteries every year, and replace the alarms every 10 years. If you don’t know when your alarms were installed, we recommend you replace them.
If you don’t have smoke alarms, the College Station Fire Department (979-764-3705) installs them free of charge for residents. You may also purchase interconnected wireless systems that simultaneously sound all your home alarms. Those extra few seconds can be precious.
Reduce Fire Hazards
The best way to keep your children safe is to prevent home fires from happening in the first place. It may seem like you’re overly cautious, but every step you take could save your child’s life. To reduce the risk of fire, it’s vital that you reduce the potential fire hazards in your home.
Here are some common areas to check:
- Don’t overload electric outlets, extension cords or wall sockets. Linking multiple extension cords or power strips together is never a good idea.
- Don’t leave burning candles unattended.
- Keep matches and lighters out of children’s reach.
- Install multiple fire extinguishers in the kitchen, bathrooms, garage, and other areas where fires are most likely to happen.
- Only use certified portable space heaters. Look for the UL (Underwriters Laboratory) label.
- Keep at least three feet of space between heat sources such as heaters, ovens, or stoves, and combustible items such as clothes, curtains, or blankets.
Create an Escape Plan
Practicing a fire escape plan with your children is essential. Children as young as age three can typically follow an escape plan, but for those unable to follow detailed instructions – or kids younger than three – you’ll need to develop a more comprehensive plan.
Creating a fire escape plan, and practicing it with your children, is critical to protecting your family’s safety in an emergency. Here’s a good outline for your plan:
- Keep exits clear of toys and debris.
- Draw a diagram of your home, and plan two escape routes.
- If you have a multi-story residence, consider buying a collapsible ladder.
- Keep your children’s bedroom doors closed to slow the time it takes for smoke from hallway fires to enter the room.
- Have a safe meeting place outside the home that’s easy for your kids to get to but far enough away in case the building collapses.
- Finally, practice, practice, practice.
If you have an infant or toddler, it’s also a good idea to install an automatic fire sprinkler system that detects fires and activates sprinklers to help douse flames and provide extra time to evacuate.
About the Blogger
Carter Hall has been a College Station firefighter since 2011. He earned a degree in leadership development from Texas A&M in 2005.
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