Many U. S. families have a home fire escape plan, but the majority of them never practice it, says a recent survey by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). They recommend practicing a home fire drill twice annually, while it wouldn't be a bad idea to practice it more than that to improve reaction time in case of a fire emergency.
Many adults feel their children will wake up when smoke alarms sound, but this is not always the case. Children tend to tune out white noise when they go to bed. They sleep through television shows, radios, talking and the hum of vacuum cleaners, washing machines and dishwashers. If your children don't wake up, then make sure a responsible adult is assigned to wake them up as part of the drill.
Once awake, plan to get out of the house and go to a family meeting place, where everyone goes for a head count. Once there, you can call 911 and alert your Livonia firefighters of the incident. Never re-enter a burning building, and meet first-arriving firefighters to let them know if everyone is accounted for.
This is why it is important to practice the occasional fire drill at night. The objective is to practice, not to frighten, so telling children there will be a drill before they go to bed can be as effective as a surprise drill, as they don't know when it will happen that night.
Smoke alarms are an important part of a fire escape plan, and properly working smoke alarms can cut the risk of dying in a home fire in half. Unfortunately, according to the NFPA, roughly two-thirds of home fire deaths happen in homes with no working smoke alarms. About 20 percent of smoke alarm failures were because of dead or missing batteries.
Smoke alarms should be installed on every level of the home, including the basement, outside of each sleeping area in the home and inside each bedroom. It is recommended that smoke alarms be interconnected, so that when one smoke alarm sounds, they all sound. If you hear your smoke alarm “chirping,” it usually means the battery is almost dead and needs to be changed. A standard 9-volt battery should last you the full year without any “chirping” to listen to. Most batteries will chirp for two weeks in a smoke alarm before totally dying. The exception is the smoke alarms equipped with 10-year batteries that do not need replacing.
All smoke alarms, including alarms that use 10-year batteries and those that are hard-wired, should be replaced when they reach 10 years old.
Seconds and minutes can mean the difference between life and death in a fire situation. Preparation is an important part of being able to deal with this fast-moving type of an emergency. Prepare your family by having an escape plan and practice it at least twice a year
Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.