(ARA) - Winter months are peak months for home fires, representing nearly 37 percent of all residential fires annually. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, winter fires are more deadly and cause more damage, resulting in more than 6,900 injuries and more than 1,700 deaths each year. Experts agree that advance preparation and planning are key factors in increasing your chances of a good outcome should fire strike this winter.
"Many people wait until it is too late to worry about 'just in case' fire planning and preparation," says Peter Kuppler, veteran fire chief, fire instructor and certified arson investigator. "Despite the risks, statistics show only 26 percent of families have actually developed and practiced a home fire escape plan. Families should know that 70 percent of all residential fire fatalities are due to smoke inhalation, not burns, so preventing smoke from entering bedrooms is vital."
Aside from knowing the risks, former Chief Kuppler offers additional advice for homeowners and college students:
Have a plan. Create an escape plan now and practice it with the whole family at least twice a year. College students and elderly persons should make sure they know the fire plan in their dorm or residential facility.
Get early warning. Having a working smoke alarm reduces the risk of dying in a fire by nearly 50 percent, so check smoke detectors monthly and replace batteries every year, even if you think they are still good. Experts recommend, and many building codes require, placement of one smoke alarm in every bedroom with one additional unit in a common area (stairway, main hallway, etc.) on every floor.
Learn best practices. Make sure that every family member knows: to stop-drop-roll should their clothing catch fire; feel doors with the back of their hand and not to open it if it is hot; and when they hear the smoke alarm, to drop to the floor to get available fresh air and crawl to the nearest safe exit.
Block the smoke. Always sleep with doors closed.
Know another way out. Everyone should know as least two ways out of their bedroom. A window can be used if the door is blocked by heat, smoke or flames. Consider a rope or chain escape ladder for sleeping areas on the second or third floors. If trapped in a room, keep the door closed, stay low to the floor and wait by the window. Do not hide under beds or in closets.
Circumnavigate security bars. Security bars on windows can help keep thieves out, but can also trap you inside your house in a fire. Install simple to use emergency releases on the inside of all bedroom windows.
Once you are out, stay out! Getting yourself and family members out should be your No. 1 priority. Use a neighbor's phone to call 911. Once out, head to a pre-arranged, safe meeting place and stay out under all circumstances until a fire official tells you it is safe to go back inside. Courtesy of ARAcontent