A horrific scenario occurred in Erie, Pa., this summer when five children staying at an overnight daycare died in a house fire. Investigators later found the only working smoke detector in the house located in the attic.
Maintaining working smoke detectors in multiple areas of your home is just one way to prevent tragedy. Fire Prevention Week is Oct. 6 to 12, making this the perfect time to talk about fire safety with our families, and also to ensure our home and children are prepared in the case of an emergency. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Public Information Officer Lieutenant Kirsten Miller offers these 10 National Fire Prevention Association fire safety tips for families:
1. Stay in the kitchen when cooking
If you must leave, even for a short time, turn off the stove.
2. Give space heaters space
Keep fixed and portable space heaters at least three feet away from anything that can burn. Turn off heaters when you leave the room or go to sleep.
3. Ask smokers to smoke outside
Keep sturdy, deep ashtrays for smokers and make sure they use them.
4. Keep matches and lighters up high
You want matches and lighters out of the reach of curious children. Consider a cabinet with a child lock. Also teach your children never to play with matches or lighters.
5. Inspect electrical cords
Replace any that are cracked, damaged, have broken plugs, or have loose connections.
6. Blow candles out when you leave a room
Candles should only be lit at least one foot from anything that can burn and should be extinguished when you leave a room or go to sleep.
7. Install smoke alarms on every level of your home
Smoke alarms should be located inside every bedroom and outside sleeping areas. Interconnect smoke alarms throughout the home so that when one sounds, they all sound.
8. Test smoke alarms at least once a month
Replace conventional batteries at least once a year or when the alarm “chirps” to tell you the battery is low. Replace any smoke alarm that is more than 10 years old.
9. Install residential fire sprinklers
If you are building or remodeling your home, install sprinklers, which can contain and even extinguish a fire in less time than it would take the fire department to arrive.
10. Have a plan
Families should develop a home escape plan which includes:
- Two ways out of every room (a door and a window)
- A path from each exit to the outside
- An outside meeting place (a tree, light pole, or mailbox) within a safe distance in front of your home
- Time to practice your escape plan twice a year
"The main thing to remember is to always be aware because a fire can happen anywhere, at any time. That’s why everyone should take some precautions in order to prevent a fire, and stay safe in case of one," Miller said. "Even a small fire can be dangerous and deadly. Always have a fire extinguisher within easy reach and call 911 immediately."
Visit the National Fire Prevention Association's website for more information about fire prevention week, along with free activities, lesson plans, games, and fire safety information.
Francesca Walker is the publisher of Macaroni Kid North East Miami and Miami Beach, Fla.