As Chicagoans, it sometimes feels as if we are born from fire. Or, at least, our city is. It’s a powerful and brag-worthy story. The city that burned down and then, from the ashes, rebuilt itself bigger and better. We are far enough removed from that fire (1871) that we don’t feel the loss and emotion that accompanied it. We don’t feel the threat of it. Sometimes we hear about the occasional fire on the news, but once again, we are usually on the outside.
Did you know that there is one week devoted to fire safety every year? One lousy week. According to the US Fire Administration in 2014 there were roughly 1,298,000 house fires in the United States. That is no small number. I remember being in elementary school and having fire safety drilled into me by teachers and fire fighters for that one week. While we had fire drills throughout the school year, that was it. The importance of the fire drills was rarely talked about, and after that week we were basically just going through the motions. How likely do we think children are to remember something they have talked about only one week out of an entire year? And, probably not even that whole week was spent on fire safety!
I have to be honest. As an adult, I still didn’t fully understand the importance of being fire ready and having a plan. This was something that could happen to other people, sure. It would never really happen to me. Right? Wrong. Just over a year ago I lost my apartment to a fire. I learned a lot through the experience of recovery and moving on, but I think the biggest lesson was to be prepared. So…
Here are my (and the professionals) recommendations for residential fire safety:
· Make sure your smoke detectors are working. Seriously. Go do it now.
· Make a family escape plan and practice the plan. Talk to your children about what to do if there is ever a fire in your home or your building.
· Talk about fire safety as a family. What do you do if there is smoke in the room you’re in? What do you do if you are trapped in a room? Where are the exits in your home?
· Don’t panic! (trust me on this one- It’s easier said than done. But having that plan will help!)
· GET OUT OF THE HOUSE!
· Make sure your kids know to call 911 if there is a fire (once they are in a safe location).
· Try to keep bedroom doors closed when not in use (or even when in use). Lack of oxygen and wind flow will help slow the spread of the fire.
· Have a fire extinguisher available.
· Use the stairs if you live in a building that has elevators
· If a doorknob is warm to touch, don’t open it.
· If you must escape through smoke, get low and go under the smoke to the nearest exit
· If you can’t get out of the room or house, find a window Wave something that is brightly colored or a flashlight so rescuers can more easily locate you.
· Make sure you’re insured! While this won’t stop a fire, it will help in the aftermath.
While some of these may seem common knowledge, it doesn’t hurt to have reminders every now and then. Now stop reading and go make a plan!
If you have any questions or would like further tips, some good resources are: