Fire safety means being ready to act
By ELIZABETH BETTENDORF
Published May 25, 2007
What would you do if fire broke out in your home?
Panic? Call 911? Try to put it out yourself?
It's one of those terrible scenarios we all worry about, but often in the abstract.
Tasks such as planning escape routes and checking smoke detector batteries may not be a priority in our busy lives.
But they should be.
Fires and burns are the third leading cause of unintentional home injury and related death, according to a recent report from the Home Safety Council, the only national nonprofit organization devoted solely to preventing home-related injuries.
"Keeping smoke alarms working and having a well-rehearsed fire escape plan are the most important steps to prepare for a fire emergency at home, " said Meri-K Appy, president of the Washington D.C.-based Home Safety Council. "You may have less than three minutes to escape if a fire occurs, so early warning from smoke alarms is critical and every family member must know the quickest escape routes."
June is Home Safety Month, and officials hope people will review the council's safety measures that help reduce the chance of fire in homes.
The Home Safety Council, which has partnered with Hillsborough County Fire Rescue on fire safety issues, recently completed a survey of Tampa residents and found that 76 percent of respondents did not know that smoke alarms needed to be tested once a month.
The survey also found that 92 percent of Tampa adults have not conducted a home fire drill.
Fire drills are essential for everyone, especially homes with children or older adults.
"When we first moved to our own home, the master bedroom was downstairs and our son's room was upstairs. He was 4 at the time, " says Victoria Yeakley, public education coordinator for Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.
The family immediately made a fire-escape plan, teaching their son to go out on the roof and wait "because smoke and fire go straight up, " Yeakley explains.
Special products on the market make it easier to keep families safe, including smoke alarm devices for the hearing-impaired that flash lights and shake the bed.
Regular, battery-operated smoke alarms are available to homeowners at all Hillsborough County fire stations.
Elizabeth Bettendorf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep Your Family Safe
-Create a fire escape plan. Find two exits out of every room. Pick a meeting place outside. Practice; hold a family fire drill at least twice each year.
-Install smoke alarms on every level of your home. Put them inside or near every bedroom. Test them monthly. Change batteries once a year.
-Put out small pan fires by sliding a lid over the flames.
-Teach family members to "stop, drop and roll."
-Consider fire sprinkler systems for new or remodeled homes.
-Learn how and when to use a fire extinguisher.
-Don't leave candles burning unattended. Trim the wicks to one-fourth inch.
-Don't leave the dryer running when you leave the house or go to sleep. Lint can find its way into the duct and cause a fire.
-If there is a fire, once you get out, stay out.
Sources: Home Safety Council and Victoria Yeakley of Hillsborough County Fire Rescue
-Always stay in the kitchen while cooking.
-Keep things that can burn, such as dish towels, paper or plastic bags and curtains at least 3 feet away from the range top.
-Before cooking, roll up sleeves and use oven mitts. Loose-fitting clothes can touch a hot burner and catch on fire.
-Never leave barbecue grills unattended while in use.
-Keep grills at least 3 feet away from other objects, including the house and any shrubs or bushes.
-Store matches and lighters in a locked cabinet.
-Keep space heaters at least 3 feet away from things that can burn, such as curtains or stacks of newspaper. Always turn off heaters when leaving the room or going to bed.
-Have a service person inspect chimneys, fireplaces, wood and coal stoves and central furnaces once a year. Have them cleaned when necessary.
-Keep things that can burn away from your fireplace and keep a glass or metal screen in front of your fireplace.
-Use fire-safe cigarettes and smoke outside.
-Use large, deep ashtrays on sturdy surfaces, like a table.
-Douse cigarette and cigar butts with water before dumping them in the trash.
When using candles...
-Never leave burning candles unattended. Do not allow children to keep candles or incense in their rooms.
-Always use stable candle holders made of material that won't catch fire, such as metal or glass.
-Blow out candles when adults leave the room.
When using gasoline and other dangerous products...
-Store gasoline in a garage or shed in a container approved for gasoline storage.
-Never bring or use gasoline indoors, and use it as a motor fuel only.
-Close the lid on all dangerous products and put them away after using them.
-Store them away from the home in a safe place with a lock.
-Don't plug in too many appliances at once.
Source: Home Safety Council