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Individual Home Fires Are Emergencies

If it is your home, it is a disaster.

October is Fire Prevention Month and there is a special emphasis on the week of Oct. 3-9.

As emergency managers, we many times focus on disaster preparedness, planning, kits and training. When we do our presentations, I suggest to always include fire prevention, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, having family assembly plans outside the house, etc. It is a way to include one of the more common events that can destroy a family’s place of home, one house at a time.

I’ve provided some fire information from the American Red Cross below. I’ll also share The Red Guide to Recovery, which covers individual fires, wildland fires that impact entire neighborhoods and also disasters in general. That single publication is the type of book that fire departments could purchase to provide a copy to families who’s homes have burned. You can have those books personalized with an agency logo and message from the chief, etc.

Home fires are the nation’s most frequent disaster

Fire Prevention Week is October 3-9 and the American Red Cross urges everyone to test their smoke alarms before the threat of home fires increases with cold weather. The Red Cross responds to 27% more home fires in November-March than in warmer weather. According to the National Fire Protection Association, home fires are most common in cooler months when people spend more time inside. Cooking and heating equipment are the leading causes of fires at families’ residences.

Safety Tips:

• Place smoke alarms on each level of your home, including inside and outside bedrooms and sleeping areas. Test alarms monthly and change the batteries at least once a year, if your model requires it.

• Check the manufacturer’s date of your smoke alarms. If they’re 10 years or older, they likely need to be replaced because components such batteries can become less reliable. Follow your alarm’s manufacturer instructions.

• Include at least two ways to exit every room in your home in your escape plan.

• Select a meeting spot at a safe distance away from your home, such as your neighbor’s home or landmark like a specific tree in your front yard, where everyone knows to meet.

• Tailor your escape plan to everyone’s needs in your household. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, install strobe light and bed-shaker alarms to help alert you to a fire. When practicing your plan, include any devices or people that can help you to get out safely.

“Home fires upend lives every day, causing heartbreak and destroying everything that makes four walls into a home,” said Jennifer Pipa, vice president, Red Cross Disaster Cycle Services. “As the threat gets worse with the onset of colder temperatures, help keep your family safe by testing your smoke alarms and practicing your two-minute fire escape drill.”

Milestone: Since October 2014, the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign with the help of community partners has saved at least 1,048 lives by educating families about fire safety, helping them create escape plans and installing more than 2.2 million free smoke alarms in high-risk homes across the country.
Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.
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