Is your family ready if there is a fire in your home?
Fall is the right time to think fire safety; National Fire Prevention Week wraps up Saturday.
Fire Prevention Week is observed each year during the week of Oct. 9 in remembrance of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which began on Oct. 8. That fire left 300 people dead and more than 100,000 residents homeless when it burned more than 3 square miles of the city.
The timing is significant in another way. Cooking is the most common cause of house fires, but home heating is the second-most common ignition source for fires in the home. Temperatures are falling and many heating units will be turned on and fireplaces will be lit for the first time in months. The Insurance Journal reports that with the operation of these heating systems, firefighters begin to see the annual seasonal increase in fires caused by heating units that will peak in January. Based on government fire data, the journal reports heating fires in residential buildings in the United States result in an annual average of 150 deaths, 575 injuries and $326 million in property loss.
So be aware of the increased risk. You should check your smoke alarms at least monthly and change the batteries when needed. There are more steps, however, that you can take to minimize the seasonal fire risk to your home and family. The U.S. Fire Administration recommends the following steps:
• Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified professional.
• Use heating equipment that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
• All heaters need space. Keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet away from heating equipment.
• Plug space heaters directly into outlets and never into an extension cord or power strip.
• Install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms inside a home to provide early warning of carbon monoxide that can be produced by faulty heating equipment.
In addition to checking the smoke alarms that should be on every level of your home, the American Red Cross also recommends you have an escape plan for your family in case of fire. Your children should recognize the sound of the smoke alarm and know what to do. Include at least two ways to exit every room. Select a meeting spot at a safe distance from the house, such as a neighbor’s house or a specific tree in your yard. The Red Cross recommends your family practice the escape plan until everyone can get out of the home in less than two minutes.