Only one in every three American households actually has developed and practiced a home fire escape plan, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
The NFPA also said one-third of American households who made an estimate thought they would have at least six minutes before a fire in their home would become life-threatening. In reality, it’s closer to two.
The theme of Fire Prevention Safety Week, which took place earlier this month, was “Not every hero wears a cape. Plan and practice your escape.”
Radcliff Deputy Fire Marshal Tommy Crane said it’s important to plan a fire escape, ensuring everyone has an exit in case of an emergency.
While the number of reported U.S. home fires in 2018 was half the number reported in 1980, the death rate per 1,000 reported fires has remained fairly steady, reflecting the continued challenges of safely escaping today’s homes, according to the NFPA.
About 80 percent of all U.S. fire deaths occur in homes.
Crane said it’s important to have two ways out of a home and it’s important for parents to go over the escape plan with any children. He said to make sure doors and windows work easily.
“With windows, it is especially important that not only is there nothing big in front of them, like a big piece of furniture or something you’ve got to move, but also on the outside,” he said. “I drive by a lot of places that you can see the shrubs or trees have actually grown up in front of the window so if you open the window they’ve got something in front of it.”
“I always remind them to keep shrubs and stuff like that at the window sill or below so at least you have an open way out of there.”
If a person’s bedroom or apartment is upstairs, Crane suggested looking at getting an actual escape ladder. He said they are compact, fit under a bed or in a closet and easily are accessible.
Crane also encouraged people to consider sleeping with the bedroom door closed so if there is a fire outside the bedroom, it helps slow the smoke from getting to them.
Also in regard to doors, if somebody has a deadbolt keyed on both sides, they should make sure that key is accessible to all the occupants in the house. It’s important for people to know the type of building they live in and have an escape plan.
Crane said it’s encouraged to practice the escape plan at least twice a year. People also should have an outside meeting place, such as a tree or light pole, a safe distance from the home where everyone should meet.
Parents should teach children how to escape on their own in case they are unable to assist.
Crane also said smoke alarms should be on every level, in every bedroom and in the hall outside sleeping areas. They should be replaced at least every 10 years.
According to the NFPA, smoke alarms should be tested at least once a month.
Crane said smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors typically are on sale this time of year. The fire department assists in installing them.