Be the “hero” in your home for fire safety

By John C. Smith
Guest Columnist

“Not Every Hero Wears a Cape. Plan and Practice Your Escape!” is the theme for this year’s National Fire Prevention Week, which began Sunday and ends this Saturday. This year’s campaign works to celebrate people of all ages who learn about home fire escape planning and practice, bring that information home and spur their families to action. From young students who learn about the campaign at school, to parents who attend a community event like a fire station open house, all of them truly are heroes because they’re taking steps to make their households much, much safer from fire.

“Not Every Hero Wears a Cape. Plan and Practice Your Escape!” also focuses on what a home escape plan entails and the value of practicing it. These messages are more important than ever, particularly because today’s homes burn faster than ever. Synthetic fibers used in modern home furnishings, along with the fact that newer homes tend to be built with more open spaces and unprotected lightweight construction, are contributing factors to the increased burn rate.

People tend to underestimate their risk to fire, particularly at home. That over-confidence lends itself to a complacency toward home escape planning and practice. But in a fire situation, you may have as little as 2 minutes for you and your family to escape. We in the fire service have seen time and again that advance planning can make a potentially life-saving difference. We, unfortunately, also see the results of a lack of it.

A home escape plan includes working smoke alarms on every level of the home, in every bedroom and near all sleeping areas. It also includes two ways out of every room, such as a door and a window, with a clear path to an outside meeting place (like a tree, light pole or mailbox) that is a safe distance away from the home. Home escape plans should be practiced twice a year by all members of the household.

Many of our fire departments will be visiting local schools during Fire Prevention Week, which is this week through Saturday. Their hopes are, as always, to instill the importance of fire prevention and fire safety to the children of our community. When your children come home, hopefully excited about fire prevention and safety, encourage and support their interests. As a family, check the smoke alarms, replace any dead or missing batteries. Replace any alarm that is more than 10 years old. Formulate an escape plan if one is not already in place, and practice it if one is in place, and look throughout the home for any other fire safety hazards. Be the hero in your home, and help to make your family and home fire safe. If you have questions or concerns, contact your local fire department. We would always much rather talk to you under those conditions, than during an emergency.

John C. Smith is chairman of the Indiana Volunteer Firefighter’s Association District 18, and public education officer for the Huntingburg Volunteer Fire Department.

More on