Springfield – The Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) is joining with fire service organizations across the nation to encourage everyone to “Practice Your Escape Plan!” during Fire Prevention Week 2007, October 7-13. In many cases, if a fire breaks out in your home, you may have as little as two minutes before the fire turns deadly. With so little time to escape a burning home, having a family fire escape plan and regularly practicing that plan could be a real lifesaver.
“Having a family escape plan is only part of your family’s fire safety picture – practicing that plan is critical so that everyone immediately knows what to do when the smoke alarm sounds,” said State Fire Marshal Dave Foreman. “During Fire Prevention Week this year, we are joining with local fire departments across the state to encourage everyone in Illinois to develop and practice their escape plans. The time spent making and practicing these plans could very well save your life or the life of someone you love.”
According to a survey conducted by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), less than 25 percent of households have actually developed and practiced a home fire escape plan. The survey also showed that only eight percent of people said their first thought on hearing a smoke alarm would be to get out of the home. And nearly three-fourths of Americans wrongly believe they can remain in a burning house for up to 10 minutes before escaping.
Foreman said smoke alarms are a key part of every home fire safety plan, because alarms alert residents to fire in the home, even when everyone is sleeping. In Illinois, smoke alarms are required by law to be placed within 15 feet of every sleeping area. An escape plan is the next step in home fire safety. Plans should include at least two ways out of each room and a meeting place outside where everyone can meet. Escape plans should be practiced at least twice each year to ensure family members remember how to get out of the house safely.
Tips on home fire escape planning:
• Bring all family members together to develop the plan. Walk through the home and inspect all possible exits and escape routes.
• Ensure everyone in the house understands the escape plan. Walk through the plan, checking to make sure the escape routes are clear and doors and windows can be opened easily.
• Households with children should consider drawing a floor plan of the home, marking two ways out of each room, including windows and doors. Post the plan on a refrigerator or other location in the house so children become familiar with it.
• Choose an outside meeting place, such as a neighbor’s house, a light post or mailbox, a safe distance in from of your home where everyone can meet after they’ve escaped.
• If there are infants, older adults or family members with mobility limitations, make sure that someone is assigned to assist them in the fire drill and in the event of an emergency. Assign a backup person in case the designee is not home during the emergency.
• Tell guests or visitors to your home about your family’s fire escape plan. When staying overnight at other people’s homes, ask about their escape plan.
• Once you’re out of the house, stay out. Under no circumstances should you ever go back into a burning building.
• If your home has two floors, every family member (including children) must be able to escape from the second floor rooms. Escape ladders can be placed in or near windows to provide an additional escape route.
• Practice your plan twice a year.
Foreman also reminds people to make sure smoke alarms are installed properly in the home and to keep them in working condition by testing alarms each month and replacing batteries on a regular basis. “One tip I suggest is to change the batteries in your smoke alarms in the spring and fall when you move your clocks forward or back,” he said. “That way, you have a set routine and are less likely to forget to change the batteries.”
In 2006, 124 people in Illinois lost their lives in fires, many of those occurring in homes without smoke alarms or with smoke alarms that weren’t working.
To support efforts by fire departments throughout the state, OSFM is providing fire safety educational materials for local special events during Fire Prevention Week. Contact your local fire department to find out what activities are planned in your community.
For more fire prevention tips, visit the OSFM website at www.state.il.us/osfm.