2017-10-18 / Editorial

Every second counts, plan two ways out

Geographic disasters — wildfires in northern California, hurricanes and earthquakes — have been dominating national news for weeks. Their widespread devastation and loss of life and property are heartbreaking and costly. However, a house fire is the peril that may be more likely to occur in Lapeer County at any time — and one local emergency officials wish to minimize the risk of turning tragic for local families.

Fire departments across Lapeer County concluded Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 8-14) last weekend with open houses at their fire halls — an opportunity for area residents to visit local firefighters, view equipment up close and at the same time learn fire safety tips.

This year’s theme to Fire Prevention Week was “Every Second Counts: Plan 2 Ways Out.” Citizens are urged to develop and practice a home escape plan and know what to do when awakened to the sound of a smoke alarm and the smell of smoke.

“Having a home fire escape plan provides the skill set and know-how to quickly and safely escape a home fire situation and can literally make the difference between life and death in so many instances,” said State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer. “I urge every family to develop and practice two ways out of the house so every member of the family knows what to do in case of a fire.”

Many families today have a much smaller window of time to escape a home fire safely — as little as one or two minutes to escape from the time the smoke alarm sounds due to newer homes burning faster, and toxic gases and smoke being produced by today’s building materials. That’s why home escape planning is so critical in a fire situation. It ensures that everyone in the household knows how to use that small window of time wisely.

A home escape plan also includes having working smoke alarms on every level of the home, in every bedroom, and near all sleeping areas.

Fire chiefs and your local fire department urge you to do the following in developing a home fire escape plan:

• Draw a map of your home with all members of your household, marking two exits from each room and a path to the outside from each exit.

• Practice your home fire drill twice a year. Conduct one at night and one during the day with everyone in your home, and practice using different ways out.

• Teach children how to escape on their own in case you can’t help them.

• Make sure all doors and windows that lead outside open easily and that every family member understands and practices how to properly operate and open locked windows and doors to escape.

• For family members with access or functional needs such as infants, older adults or people with a mobility disability, make sure that someone is assigned to assist them in the fire drill and in the event of an emergency. Assign a back-up in case that person is absent from the home.

• Practice checking the doors for smoke. If you see smoke, do not open the door. If you touch the door and it is hot, do not open the door.

• If the door is cool enough to open, open it slowly and put your head down and tilt your face away from the opening.

• Close doors behind you as you leave to slow the flow of oxygen to the fire and give you time to escape.

• Practice crawling low. In a fire, smoke and poisonous air hurt more people than the actual flames. Staying low means you can crawl below the smoke.

• Designate a clear meeting place outside of the home, stay outside, and stay together to best help first responders.

Make sure everyone in your home knows how to call 9-1-1.

We’re pleased to partner with Lapeer County’s first responders during the month of October to practice fire safety.

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