'Have two ways out' of house to save lives
It's 3 a.m. You and your family are sound asleep and awake to the beeping smoke alarm. You are tired and confused from the effects of the smoke. You know you need to get to safety, but when you head for the front door, you find that escape route is blocked by fire that is spreading by the second. What do you do? While this scenario is one I hope you never have to encounter, the statistics tell us that many people do every day. According to the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association, a home structure fire was reported every 85 seconds in 2010. That added up to 369,500 home structure fires, which caused 13,350 injuries and 2,640 deaths. We also know that most fatal fires kill one or two people. However, in 2010, 19 home fires killed five or more people, resulting in 101 deaths. The numbers are scary, but there is something you can do to help ensure your family's safety should a fire break out in your home: "Have Two Ways Out." Polk County Fire Rescue is teaming up with NFPA during Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 7-13, to urge residents to "Have Two Ways Out." This year's theme focuses on the importance of fire escape planning and practice. Only one-third of Americans have both developed and practiced a home fire escape plan. And of the three-quarters of Americans who do have an escape plan, less than half actually practiced it.As we saw in the scenario above, fire is unpredictable. Seconds and minutes can mean the difference between life and death. We want to ensure that residents know what to do if a fire breaks out in their home. Preparation is an important part of being able to deal with an emergency and it is crucial you take steps to prepare your family for the potential of a home fire by having an escape plan and practicing it. Although preparing for the unexpected is difficult, reviewing the information below and taking action based on it to plan for a fire could save lives. Polk County Fire Rescue recommends the following tips for planning your family's escape. If you have children and want to make this a family activity: Make a map of your home. Mark a door and a window that can be used to get out of every room. Choose a meeting place outside in front of your home. This is where everyone can meet once they've escaped. Draw a picture of your outside meeting place on your escape plan. Write the emergency telephone number for the fire department on your escape plan (911). Sound the smoke alarm and practice your escape drill with everyone living in your home. Keep your escape plan on the refrigerator and practice the drill twice a year or whenever anyone in your home celebrates a birthday. If your family is all adults: Walk through your home and identify two ways out of each room. Choose a meeting place outside in front of your home. This is where everyone can meet once they've escaped. Make sure everyone knows the emergency number for your local fire department (911). Practice your escape drill twice a year. To learn more about Fire Prevention Week and Polk County Fire Rescue Public Education, contact PubEd911@polkfl.com. To learn more about "Have Two Ways Out!" visit NFPA's website at www.firepreventionweek.org.
David C. Cash is chief of the Polk County Fire Rescue