Although no two families are exactly alike, one thing they all have in common is the need to be prepared in the event of a home fire. By having a plan in place, you can be sure everyone — furry family members included — sails through safe and sound if and when the time comes.
With October's Fire Prevention Month just around the corner, now is the perfect time to prepare and practice some ground rules for what each family member should do if a fire ever occurs in the home. Indeed, given the fact that the National Fire Prevention Association estimates that there were 365,000 home fires reported in 2012, any time devoted to prepping your kids is time well spent.
To help you establish a plan, here are some family-centric fire safety tips and fire prevention best practices.
Prevention is key
There are many things you can do to keep your home as safe as possible.
Fire safety tips related to kids and pets include the following:
- Never leave cooking food unattended.
- Turn pot handles inward so that they do not tempt kids to pull them down.
- Do not overload electrical outlets with computer equipment, electronics or small appliances.
- Test smoke detectors at least once a month and make sure you have at least one per floor of your home and optimally, one in every bedroom.
- Avoid placing candles or lamps on windowsills or other narrow places frequented by cats. This may be a wall shelf within jumping distance or a console table behind the couch.
- If you have large dogs or cats, ensuring that there are no errant cords or precariously placed light sources (candles and lamps) in high-traffic areas is crucial. Tails and bumping bodies can knock things over in the blink of an eye and you may not always be at home to handle any accidents.
Speaking of pets, Sparky the Fire Dog's official website is a great resource for parents with young children and even includes games, mobile apps and tips with voice-over instructions for those too young to read!
Create an evacuation plan
Make sure to include the following when you create your family's fire escape plan:
- Print out a floor plan of your house or draw a diagram of your rooms including all windows and doors.
- Be sure to mark at least two exits from each room.
- Walk through each room with your kids and show them how to unlock windows and attach fire escape ladders, if applicable.
- Elect someone to be responsible for rescuing your pets; allocate one person per pet and then assign a backup.
- Don't forget about cat carriers and dog leashes: Having these within easy reach ensures your pets feel safe and you can rest assured that they are secured.
- Designate a central meeting location outside of the home in your front yard or at a neighbor's.
- In an obvious location on the evacuation plan paper and in large and clearly written numbers, include emergency numbers for the fire department, the police station, your local hospital and a close friend or relative who lives nearby, just in case.
- Conduct "dress rehearsals" with a stopwatch and make a game out of improving your evacuation times.
Another thing to consider during the summer months is sleepovers with friends. Due to the fact that 7 out of 10 home fires occur at night, before allowing your children to attend a sleepover, speak with the friend's parents and find out:
- How many and which adults will be present?
- How many other children will be staying over?
- Do they have a fire safety plan that they practice with their kids?
- Are there working smoke detectors in the home?
- Does the child's bedroom have a properly functioning smoke detector?
If you are unsatisfied with any of the above answers, consider reversing the invitation and having the friend stay over at your home.
What other fire safety tips and equipment have you incorporated into your family's fire safety plan?
For more info, please visit The Home Depot fire safety product pages.