Near the end of September, my son experienced fire—complete with a banging on his apartment door at 3:00 a.m. and a policeman shouting for him to get out.
Stunned, he shoved his feet into flip-flops, grabbed a jacket and bolted. He had his wallet and phone. That was all he would own a few hours later.
The policeman told him he might be able to go back in ten minutes—the fire was in a neighboring building. He waited in the cold, worrying about his beloved cat still inside. Ten minutes stretched to hours. He periodically updated us on his cell phone. The fire leapt to his apartment in an old historic building with wooden beams. The roof caved in. The cat died and my son lost all his possessions.
It is now October, FIRE PREVENTION MONTH. Annually the American Red Cross reminds us of the dangers and sorrows of fire. We need to be alert; we need to be prepared. The American Red Cross gave my son money for food and shelter within hours of the fire. And except for dwindling anxiety over the loss of his cat and a trip to the ER for a nebulizer treatment from smoke inhalation, my son is all right. Would you and your family fare as well?
There are between 350,000 and 400,000 house fires in the United States every year. Home fires are the biggest disaster threat to families in this country, above floods and hurricanes.
You might be thinking everything can be replaced, I don’t need to worry. Think again.
In the 1970s, before smoke alarms were available to homeowners, my friend Chris, at the tender age of seven, was burned in a house fire. Asleep at the back of a one level home away from his parents, he suffered burns over 90% of his body. He survived. Now a successful cardiac RN, Chris is proof that life can get better, but he suffered excruciating pain and many surgeries; he is permanently scarred.
More statistics: in the United States fires kill about 6,000 people each year and cause burns to 100,000 more.
Do you have smoke alarms in major areas of your home? Do you test the batteries in these smoke detectors periodically and replace the batteries twice a year?
The leading causes of fire in the home are:
Furnaces, wood stoves and space heaters
In addition to checking your smoke detectors or buying new ones during FIRE PREVENTION MONTH, create an E.D.I.T.H. plan. EDITH is an acronym for Exit Drills In The Home. Everyone should do the following:
- Have a family meeting
- Diagram two escape routes for daytime living and most importantly plan two for nighttime sleeping. (In an apartment building, locate the enclosed exit stairs.)
- If you have babies or very small children, consider how you will get to them so you can carry them outside.
- Choose a place outdoors where you will all meet.
- Remind your children never to return to a burning building.
- Make sure that escape routes work—that children can open windows, climb down ladders, or are able to lower themselves to the ground.
- If you are helping your child, always lower them first as they might panic and be unable to follow you.
- If the building you live in has security bars over the windows, at least one window must have bars that can be opened from the inside.
My son was extremely fortunate in another way—he had renter’s insurance. The American Red Cross states that 98% of people living in rental units do not have renter’s insurance. They lose everything. If this is you, call an agent today. In light of what you will have to replace, renter’s insurance is affordable.
More fire and burn prevention tips:
- Carefully store flammable products
- Turn the handle of boiling water pots inward so children cannot reach them
- Don’t leave your kitchen or home if you are frying, grilling or broiling food
- Keep matches and lighters away from and out of reach of children
- Keep hot irons away from children
- Never leave fireplace fires unattended
- Teach your children STOP, DROP and ROLL if they ever find themselves on fire
- Don’t keep old newspapers or rags. Get rid of items that could ignite and become a blazing fire
- Don’t leave dryers, washers, dishwashers or other electrical appliances running when you leave your home for a number of hours
- Buy a fire extinguisher for kitchen fires
- Fire in your home beyond your control?—get out and stay out. Call 911 from your cell or a neighbor’s home
Be prepared and stay safe.
Thank you to WILLG PHOTOS’ PHOTOSTREAM