REGION – You and your family are fast asleep when the smoke alarm sounds; do you know what to do?
Consider this scenario: it’s 2 a.m. You and your family are fast asleep when you awaken to the smoke alarm sounding and the smell of smoke. What do you do? If you and your family don’t have an escape plan in place, it could jeopardize your safety, or even prove deadly.
In a typical home fire, you may have as little as one to two minutes to escape safely from the time the smoke alarm sounds. That’s why home escape planning is so critical in a fire situation. It ensures that everyone in the household knows how to use that small window of time wisely.
On Sept. 19, 2017, Governor Phil Scott signed a proclamation declaring Oct. 8-14 Fire Prevention Week. “This important message effectively serves to educate the public about the vital importance of developing a home fire escape plan with all members of the household and practicing it twice a year. Developing and practicing a home escape plan is critical in reducing your time to escape,” said Michael Desrochers, director of Division of Fire Safety. “Pre-planning is what everyone will draw upon to snap into action and escape as quickly as possible in the event of a fire.”
An effective plan should include two ways out – a door and an operable escape window – for every sleeping room. The window sash must be low enough – maximum of 44 inches off the floor and unobstructed to allow young children and the elderly access. Windowless bedrooms, particularly those in basements, pose a significant threat to loss of life in a fire and should be avoided if possible. With no window, you are strictly limited to one way out and this pathway maybe easily obstructed by smoke and heat leaving you with no escape route. Additionally, windowless rooms will delay rescue operations and prevent you from breathing fresh air.
In support of Fire Prevention Week, the Division of Fire Safety and the Vermont Fire Service encourages all Vermonters to develop a plan together and practice it. In addition to two ways out, a home escape plan includes working photoelectric type smoke alarms on every level of the home, in every bedroom, and near all sleeping areas. It’s also good to clear a path to an outside meeting place (like a tree, light pole, or mailbox) that’s a safe distance from the home. “Home escape planning is one of the most basic but fundamental elements of home fire safety, and can truly make the difference between life and death in a fire situation,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of Outreach and Advocacy.
The Division of Fire Safety is working in coordination with the Vermont Fire Service and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the official sponsor of the Fire Prevention Week for more than 90 years, to reinforce these potentially life-saving messages. NFPA and the Division of Fire Safety offer these additional tips and recommendations for developing and practicing a home escape plan:
Draw a map of your home with all members of your household, marking two exits from each room and a path to the outside from each exit.
Practice your home fire drill twice a year. Conduct one at night and one during the day with everyone in your home, and practice using different ways out.
Teach children how to escape on their own in case you can’t help them.
Make sure the number of your home is clearly marked and easy for the fire department to find.
Close doors behind you as you leave — this may slow the spread of smoke, heat, and fire.
Once you get outside, stay outside. Never go back inside a burning building.
For more information about Fire Prevention Week activities in your community, contact your local fire department. For additional safety information you can visit our web page at www.firesafety.vermont.gov. To learn more about this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign, “Every Second Counts: Plan 2 Ways Out” and home escape planning, visit www.firepreventionweek.org.