By Jan Gunter
City of Opelika
October is “Fire Prevention Month” across the United States. In an effort to better educate communities throughout the U.S., the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is promoting “Smoke Alarms: Hear the beep where you sleep!” as the theme for this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign, October 4-10 which Opelika is supporting locally.
“Many homes in Opelika may not have any smoke alarms, not enough smoke alarms, alarms that are too old, or alarms that are not working,” said Opelika Fire Chief Byron Prather. “We want residents to understand that working smoke alarms are needed in every home, on every level (including the basement), and outside each sleeping area. And, if a smoke alarm is 10 years old or older, it needs to be replaced.”
According to National statistics smoke alarms can mean the difference between life and death in a fire. NFPA statistics show that working smoke alarms cut the chance of dying in a fire nearly in half. But they must be working properly to do so.
NFPA and Opelika Fire Department agree that interconnected smoke alarms offer the best protection; when one sounds, they all do. This is particularly important in larger or multi-story homes, where the sound from distant smoke alarms may be reduced to the point that it may not be loud enough to provide proper warning, especially for sleeping individuals.
Opelika Fire Department offers the following tips for making sure smoke alarms are maintained and working properly:
Test smoke alarms at least once a month using the test button, and make sure everyone in your home knows their sound.
If an alarm “chirps,” warning the battery is low, replace the battery right away.
Replace all smoke alarms, including alarms that use 10-year batteries and hard-wired alarms, when they’re 10 years old (or sooner) if they do not respond properly when tested.
Never remove or disable a smoke alarm.
People are urged to have a plan in place. If you don’t have one already, let us encourage you to please create an escape plan for your family in the event of a fire in your home. They are not hard to put together, and they very well could save the life of a loved one.
Walk through your home and inspect all possible exits and escape routes. Households with children should consider drawing a floor plan of your home, marking two ways out of each room, including windows and doors.
Choose an outside meeting place (i.e. neighbor’s house, a light post, mailbox or stop sign) a safe distance in front of your home where everyone can meet after they’ve escaped. Make sure to mark the location of the meeting place on your escape plan.
If windows or doors in your home have security bars, make sure that the bars have emergency release devices inside so that they can be opened immediately in an emergency. Emergency release devices won’t compromise your security – but they will increase your chances of safely escaping a home fire.
If your home has two floors, every family member (including children) must be able to escape from the second floor rooms. Escape ladders can be placed in or near windows to provide an additional escape route. Review the manufacturer’s instructions carefully so you’ll be able to use a safety ladder in an emergency. Practice setting up the ladder from a first floor window to make sure you can do it correctly and quickly. Children should only practice with a grown-up, and only from a first-story window. Store the ladder near the window, in an easily accessible location. You don’t want to have to search for it during a fire.
Closing doors on your way out slows the spread of fire, giving you more time to safely escape.
In some cases, smoke or fire may prevent you from exiting your home or apartment building. To prepare for an emergency like this, practice “sealing yourself in for safety” as part of your home fire escape plan. Close all doors between you and the fire. Use duct tape or towels to seal the door cracks and cover air vents to keep smoke from coming in. If possible, open your windows at the top and bottom so fresh air can get in. Call the fire department to report your exact location. Wave a flashlight or light-colored cloth at the window to let the fire department know where you are located.
Practice your home fire escape plan twice a year, making the drill as realistic as possible.
To learn more about “Fire Safety,” visit NFPA’s Web site at www.firepreventionweek.org.