By Silvia Martinez, Mama Latina Tips
Obviously, the best way to escape a fire is to do your best to prevent one. So before sitting down to plan out your family’s fire escape plan, the first thing to do is take a fire safety walk-through in your home. A fire safety walk-through is a great opportunity both to check for fire hazards and to teach your children about fire safety and the importance of having advance warning from smoke alarms when every second counts.
So what are you looking for?
Look for anything you think could be either a fire hazard or could prevent your family from escaping quickly and safely in the event of a fire. Look for things like curtains, towels, clothing or other flammable materials that may have migrated too close to a space heater or stove. Make sure your fireplace is in good working order. Check to see if your smoke alarms are in place, installed in all the recommended areas, and working correctly. Don’t forget that smoke alarms need to be replaced every 10 years! Check to see if all windows and doors can be opened easily by all members of the family. (Windows and window locks sometime get painted closed and windows and doors can swell or warp, making them difficult to open).
Look for obstacles and tripping hazards along your potential escape paths. Make sure electrical sockets and power strips are not overloaded. Check for worn wires. Make sure matches and lighters are stored safely out of reach of your curious little ones.
If you live in a home with security bars on the doors and windows, make sure they have quick release devices that are working properly, and that all members of the family know how to release them.
Once you’ve done your walk-through, it’s time to make your escape plan. The goal of the plan is to get everyone out as quickly and safely as possible. Draw a map of each level of your home showing all the doors and windows. On the map, indicate two ways to get out of each room. Children should be taught how to escape on their own in case you are not available to help them. Designate a place to meet safely away from and in front of your home to take attendance. Remember, every second counts and once out, stay out, never go back into a burning building for any reason.
Practice your plan at least twice a year. My family likes the beginning and end of daylight savings time. This is a great time to check the batteries in your smoke alarms, too. Practice in the daytime and at night. Things can look very different in the dark. Lastly, teach your children not to hide from firefighters and to tell firefighters right away if someone is missing.
For more useful tips and resources check out the following websites, both of which were used while researching this article:
The National Fire Protection Association, a great resource with tips for installing and maintaining smoke alarms.