It really can happen to youNov 1st, 2011 | By JCrutchfield | Category: Features, Healthy Kids
Fire Safety TipsBy Bruce Garner, Public Information Director with the Chattanooga Fire Department.
I’ve been to many house fires but one of the worst tragedies I’ve seen occurred a few years ago in a house off Lee Highway, the day before Thanksgiving.
It was early in the morning and it was very cold outside. As the temperature dropped, the wall heater in the house came on. Ordinarily, that’s a good thing, but during the summer months the family had moved a couch in front of the wall heater, and evidently forgot about it. Around 4:45 a.m. that day, the heater ignited a fire on the couch.
There was no working smoke alarm to wake the family, so the flames spread quickly through the house and blocked their exits. When the family woke to the smell of smoke, time was already running out. Two family members survived, but a mother and her two young daughters – ages 2 and 8 – perished in the blaze.
None of us who witnessed that terrible tragedy will ever forget it. In virtually every fire I’ve been to, those who survived the fire were shocked by the devastation, and by the fact that it happened to them. Actually, it happens far more than you might think, and virtually all of these tragedies are preventable.
It’s understandable. You’re busy. You’ve got a job (or perhaps you’ve lost one), you’re raising a family, paying bills and you’re juggling many other important matters. What are the odds that a fire will break out in your home? The odds may not be particularly high, but on an average year, fires in the home kill more people than all natural disasters combined. According to the Home Safety Council, fires and burns top the list of unintentional deaths in the home for children age 1 to 14.
The main reason people die in fires is that they are caught off guard and can’t escape in time. A deadly combination is this: The victims are asleep and they don’t have smoke alarms to alert them when a fire breaks out.
The key is to have working smoke alarms, preferably on every level in your home. These wonderful devices constantly sniff the air for smoke, whether you’re awake or not. Make sure yours are working, check their batteries. If you have gas heat and/or gas appliances, you should also have carbon monoxide detectors too.
As we approach colder weather, there are several critical safety steps to protect your family. If you have electric wall heaters, make sure you don’t have anything in front of them. Most of these heaters have thermostats that range from low to high. If the temperature drops low enough in the house, the heater will turn on, even if it’s on the low setting.
The main safety tip you need to remember when using alternative sources of heat, such as wall heaters and space heaters, is the three-foot rule: Keep anything that will burn at least three feet away from the heaters.
Finally, parents should practice fire escape drills with their children. It’s one thing to talk about what to do; it’s another thing to sound the alarm and physically know what to do where to go when time is of the essence. Everyone in your house should know two ways out of the house, and you should have a common meeting place where everyone can be accounted for.
There is much more to learn about fire safety. For more information, you can visit our website at http://www.chattanooga.gov/Fire_Department/4821_FirePreventionTips.htm, or the National Fire Protection Association at www.nfpa.org.