Fire Safety Begins with Preparation
In the event of a fire, officials estimate you and your family may have as little as two minutes to escape your home once a fire alarm sounds. With so much at stake, there are clearly many good reasons to plan ahead to prevent critical injuries.
It’s important to involve the whole family and invest the time to create a fire response plan. It’s equally important – and more effective – to put in place measures to avoid a fire altogether. In both cases, the key to injury prevention is fire safety planning and preparation.
Committed to Burn Prevention and Care
Doctors and nurses of University Hospital’s trauma team are uniquely qualified to treat the devastating effects fires have on human lives. We treat pediatric burn patients in our Level I pediatric trauma center, the only one of its kind in South Texas.
Given the unique expertise of those in our Injury Prevention Department, University Health is also best positioned to lead our community’s fire prevention and burn prevention initiatives. We are dedicated to fire safety as part of our commitment to whole healthcare. We believe it starts with education on injury and burn prevention for the whole family.
Safety Planning in Case of Fire
All fires in the home are predictable or preventable. A little extra precaution and planning can help reduce your family’s risk.
To make the best use of precious seconds, you need to be ready in case of a fire.
Develop a fire escape plan that involves the entire family, and put these measures in place when you practice:
- Grab a stopwatch so you can time each escape
- Designate someone to get infants or small children
- Teach children to avoid smoke by staying low to the ground
- Feel the door, doorknob and area around the door cautiously
- Choose a meeting spot a safe distance from your home
Walk through each of these steps with your kids. Teach your children how to test and avoid hot doors, to stay in place and look for another way out of the room. Show them how to place a towel, blanket, rug or t-shirt below the door space to keep smoke from filling their room. As an additional safety precaution, make sure children have a flashlight in their room to signal for help if they become trapped.
Keep fire extinguishers in several areas around the house – ideally the kitchen, laundry room, garage and master bedroom. This is a family’s first line of defense to stop the spread of a potentially catastrophic fire.
It’s a good idea to teach your children where to find the extinguisher in each room and how to use them. Practice in your yard and be sure to check for any expiration dates to replace when necessary.
Smoke alarms reduce your chances of dying in a house fire by nearly 50 percent as long as they work properly. Be sure to test your smoke alarms each month. Involve your kids during a test so they know how to respond to the sound. Then, set up an unannounced test – preferably at night – to see if your children respond. If they don’t, you’ll be able to create an alternate plan.
Make sure to replace your smoke alarm batteries twice per year. We recommend changing out the batteries along with Daylight Saving Time as a simple, effective reminder. You should also consider installing smoke alarms with built-in, 10-year batteries.
For the best protection, make sure smoke alarms are installed on every level of your home outside sleeping areas and in bedrooms. Replace and re-install new smoke alarms every 10 years.
Electrical OutletsTo reduce your chance of electrical fires, avoid plugging several appliance cords into the same electrical socket. Don’t overload your outlets with multiple extension or brick devices, either.
Major home appliances can cause fires when misused or left unattended. A few important rules to follow:
- Clothes dryers – Removing lint from the lint trap after each use and check the dryer hose for lint buildup every so often.
- Ovens – Never leave cooking items unattended.
- Stoves – Don’t leave pot holders or hand towels near stove tops. Also, keep a lid handy to smother small grease fires.
Home fires can originate from any number of home appliances. Visit National Fire Protection Association for in-depth fire-related analyses of dozens of home appliances and equipment.
Even small open flames are always a potential source of a house fire. It’s important to take extra precaution with candles. Follow these guidelines in your home:
- Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn.
- Always blow out candles when you leave the room or go to sleep.
- Place matches, gasoline and lighters in a safe place out of children’s reach.
- Teach kids never to play with matches and lighters.
Take extra precautions during winter months with space heaters or fireplaces. Make sure your fireplace is protected by an approved glass or metal screen. Be sure to place space heaters at least three feet from anything flammable, and never leave them unattended. Don’t use your stove to heat your home. It’s both a fire hazard and a common source of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Many things around the house can catch on fire if they touch something hot like a cigarette or ashes. It is always safer to smoke outside. If you smoke inside your home, don’t smoke when you drink alcohol or take medicine that can make you sleepy. Put out cigarettes completely using sand or water, and never smoke in bed.