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Fire Prevention Week: Have Two Ways Out

Are you prepared if a fire breaks out in your home?

Have Two Ways Out” is this year's theme for the National Fire Protection Association's annual Fire Prevention Week, which runs Oct. 7-13.

According to the NFPA, "It is important to have a home fire escape plan that prepares your family to think fast and get out quickly when the smoke alarm sounds. The reality is that when fire strikes, your home could be engulfed in smoke and flames in just a few minutes. What if your first escape route is blocked by smoke or flames? That's why having two ways out is such a key part of your plan. 'Have Two Ways Out!' focuses on the importance of fire escape planning and practice.

Are you prepared if a fire breaks out in your home? Having working smoke detectors is not enough. Would you know what to do if your stairs or exits were blocked by heat and smoke? Have you ever had a home fire drill with your family planning a second way out?

E.D.I.T.H. (Exit Drills In The Home) was the slogan for the NFPA’s Fire Prevention Week in 1981. Since then it has become a universal program and the standard for fire education teachers and professionals. E.D.I.T.H. will help you and your family prepare for a fire emergency, getting you out of your home safely and quickly.

When preparing a fire escape plan, draw a diagram of your home showing all hallways, doors and windows. Include the whole family and keep it simple so everyone understands it. In one color draw arrows showing the regularly used exits. In a second color draw arrows showing a secondary way out of every room, especially bedrooms.

Go to each room and test the second exit. Whether it’s a door or window be sure they open and close and are not painted shut. Make sure all locks work and screens come out easily. If the exit is above the first floor, store a fire safety ladder close to the window and practice using it on a first floor window. Set up a meeting place preferably on your neighbor’s front lawn or sidewalk. Call the fire department from your cell phone or from your neighbor’s house. Once everyone is out, stay out. Most people who go back into a burning building don’t come out. Three out of four people who perish in fires die from smoke inhalation. Report any missing family members or pets to the firefighters when they arrive.

Bedroom doors should be closed while asleep, keeping out unwanted heat and smoke. When the smoke alarms sound, teach everyone to roll out of bed and to crawl low under smoke to the bedroom door.

“When smokes around, we get down.” Feel the door starting from bottom up with the back of your hand. Feel the metal doorknob, as it will heat up faster. If the door is hot or if you see smoke coming from under the door, don’t open it. Yell out loud ”Fire Fire, Help Help” alerting other family members.

Grownups' bedrooms should be close to younger children or persons with physical or mental handicaps assisting with their escape. Children should always be assisted out first. Drills should be conducted at least twice a year. Install and maintain smoke detectors outside sleeping areas and if possible in all bedrooms, testing them monthly.

Planning and practicing a family fire escape plan will ensure that your family and loved ones are ready for any fire emergency.

Author's Note: A great place to visit to learn about fire safety, including E.D.I.T.H. and smoke alarms, is the Nassau County Firefighters Museum and Education Center. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Gerald Cadigan is a 38-year veteran of the fire service currently employed by the Village of Garden City serving more than 31 years with the career staff of the Garden City Fire Department. He is also a Fire Safety Specialist with the Nassau County Fire Academy, Public Fire Education Division. He is a graduate from LIU CW Post, with a BA in criminal justice.

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