One minute is not a lot of time, but that is how long most people have to escape their home once the smoke alarm signals that the house is on fire. That is just 60 short seconds to get out of the house to safety. Homes have many more plastic products today than ever before so when enough smoke accumulates to sound the smoke alarm, the fire is growing so fast that only those with a well-rehearsed escape plan have the greatest chances of survival. To watch how quickly a fire can burn in a typical home, go to the city's website (www.ci.livonia.mi.us) and visit the fire department page. Choose the “educational videos” section, and watch the short piece titled “Flashover.”
Without a plan already in place, and plenty of working smoke alarms to signal that fire early in its growth, those 60 seconds can mean the difference between life and death. Once the fire has started and the fire department has been called, it will take us a few minutes to get to your house and get ready to enter the hot, flaming environment.
People really need to take ownership of home fire safety for those reasons. Although no one wants to have a home fire, the typical attitude is one of “it won't happen to me.” The truth is that more than 3,000 people die in home fires in the United States each year, and many more are injured. Most deaths happen in small numbers, usually one at a time, and this rarely makes headline news for very long.
So many people assume that today's homes are more fire safe and better built. While the engineering is better, the components are much thinner and will fail at a faster rate than those buildings of a few years ago.
The good news is that it doesn't take a lot of time or money to make your home more fire safe. Your best weapon is working smoke alarms on all levels of your home, outside of all sleeping areas and even in the bedrooms for maximum protection. Make sure you test them monthly, replace the batteries annually, and replace your smoke alarms every 10 years. If you need a smoke alarm, stop by fire headquarters (Farmington Road, just south of Five Mile) during business hours on Monday through Friday and we will give you a free smoke alarm.
The next step is to practice a home fire escape plan. This includes all members of your household, and they rehearse their actions if they are awakened by a smoke alarms signal. This includes knowing how to use two ways out of every room in the home, and meeting at an outside meeting place to make sure everyone has made it out safely. Discuss calling the emergency dispatchers who will answer your 911 call for help, and how to get the very basic information across in a timely manner. Take ownership of your home's fire safety.
Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.