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Secure Dad 101: Fire Safety
As kids we liked to see the fire truck. My kid loves it when we see one out in public. But as adults we understand that we don’t want to see a fire truck coming down our street… for our house. That is why we need to take the necessary steps to make sure our home is safe.
Fire Safety Tip 1: Have the Right Gear
It is important to have the right fire extinguisher and that it is ready for use. Fire extinguishers are classified into three major categories for the home: A) Trash, wood and paper B) Liquids C) Electrical. That is why an ABC fire extinguisher is recommended for home use.
Fire Safety Tip 2: Functioning Fire Extinguisher
Look at the gauge on at the top of the extinguisher. This gauge will tell you if it is going to save you or do nothing at all. Make sure the needle is in the green zone or “FULL”. If it is not in that green area, it is not properly charged and WILL NOT WORK. Also, read the instructions printed on the side of the extinguisher ahead of an emergency. When your heart is pounding, smoke is filling the room and adrenaline has kicked in - this not the time to read the instructions.
Store your fire extinguisher near areas of the home prone to start fires. These areas are the kitchen, laundry area, garage and bedrooms. It’s always a good idea to have more than one in your home. The most common sources of fires are kitchen equipment and smoking.
Fire Safety Tip 3: Know How to Use It
Remember the acronym P.A.S.S. when using the extinguisher.
P - Pull the ring to activate the extinguisher
A - Aim the end of the hose at the fire
S - Squeeze the handle to activate it
S - Sweep the hose from left to right at the base of the fire
It’s not hard to use a fire extinguisher. Also remember that you don’t have to be right on top of the fire, the spray can reach several feet and it will still be effective. Don’t make the mistake of getting too close and hurting yourself.
Fire Safety Tip 4: Advance Warning
Why is it that all smoke alarms seem to run out of battery a 2 a.m. the night before your big presentation? It never fails. I’ve been known to get up in the middle of the night and replace the batteries. (Sometimes to discover I’ve replaced the wrong one.)
The key to a functioning smoke alarm is its power source. Some people believe that since their alarms are hardwired into the home’s power that they don’t need batteries. This is not true. The battery back up exists to power the alarm after the electricity fails. In many fires the power in the home does not work so it is up to the back up battery to save the day. If your home security system includes fire monitoring, that is a great additional security measure, but do not rely solely on it. Maintain your homes smoke alarms.
It is also a good idea to have an additional smoke alarms in all attics and crawl spaces.
Fire Safety Tip 5: Make a Plan
Your ability of making it out of your burning home alive is based on advanced warning from a smoke alarm and an advanced knowledge of an escape plan. Make an escape plan as a family. It’s not a good idea for only the adults in the home to know the plan, make sure your children are aware and know what to do. When your plan is finalized, physically walk through what to do in the event of a fire. If you have infants or older adults in your home, make sure a able bodied person is assigned to get them out of the house as quickly as possible.
Your family’s plan needs to include a meeting place outside your home. It can be the mailbox, a neighbor's porch or a street light. From there you can call 911 from a cell phone or from a neighbor's home. Once you are outside, stay outside. Do not enter the home again. No valuable or pet is worth a human life. Besides, pets have amazing instincts and will know how get away from danger. Don’t include a pet in your family escape plan.
Fire Safety Tip 6: Escape Ladder
If immediate escape from your home through a door is not an option, go out the window. If you are on the first floor, make sure all your windows work properly and you can fit through them. If you have a two, or more, story home make sure you have an escape ladder. Escape ladders are small storable boxes with expanding ladders inside. These are quick to deploy and can save your life. It’s not as easy as running out the front door, but this will get you closer to the ground safely.
Make sure you store your ladder near the window you will use to evacuate your home. Don’t be left searching for in all of the smoke. It is recommended that you own at least two ladders, one for the front of the home and one for the back. Just like the fire extinguisher, know how to use it before an emergency. When your life is on the line is not the time to learn how to use it.
Below is the ladder my family has. In fact, we have two of them. One in our bedroom and one in our 4 year old's room. (Click here to see it on Amazon) They both store very easily in both rooms. I pulled out the ladder and read all of the instructions with my wife. It seems straight forward. I didn't deploy it out the window, but know how to do it now. Before you order it know it comes in two sizes 13 and 25ft. Get the one that is right for your home.
Get a 13ft or 25ft Kiddle Fire Escape Ladder from Amazon.
Fire Safety Tip 7: No Escape
In some instances smoke or fire can prevent you from leaving your home. If this is the case, you need to seal yourself in for safety. This tactic gets everyone into one room and seals it off. Every door between you and the fire needs to be shut. Seal the door of the room with duct tape, towels or sheets to prevent smoke from coming in. Open a window for ventilation and fresh air. Use a flashlight or light colored towel to waive to catch the attention of first responders. If you can call 911, tell them your exact location. This is a worst case scenario plan, do not make this a primary plan for dealing with a fire in your home.
For more information on fire safety, including prevention and how to recover from a fire, check out this great resource from the Red Cross. For more on family safety, consider The Secure Dad Newsletter.