If you were awakened at 2:30 a.m. by the sound of smoke alarms activating, would you know how to get yourself and all family members quickly and safely out of a burning house?
If the answer is “no,” you need to have a plan.
“When you hear the smoke alarm going off, that means it’s time to go,” said Lt. Kenny Mitchell with Chesterfield Fire and EMS. “It’s not the time to start thinking about how you and your family will get out of the house.”
Because you never know when a fire is going to occur, Fire and EMS is encouraging all Chesterfield households this month to develop a home escape plan.
The topic has taken on even greater urgency with the ongoing “age wave” and a trend toward multi-generational households, where grandparents and even great-grandparents reside in the same home with young children.
“It’s about starting the conversation and having awareness that everybody in the home may not be able to get up and run in the event of a fire,” Mitchell added.
To create a home escape plan, get all family members together and map out the interior of your residence, taking care to note all doors, windows and staircases.
Identify at least two egress points in every room and make sure doors and windows are accessible; that way, you’re not trapped if one of your ways out is blocked by heavy smoke or fire.
Discuss the plan until everyone understands it, then practice it until it becomes second nature.
Another element of executing a home escape plan is teaching everyone in the household, particularly young children, how to open a window.
It’s also important to decide on an outside meeting spot and make sure everyone knows what it is. When fire crews arrive on scene, they want to know how many people live in the house and if anyone is still inside.
The meeting place can be a neighbor’s front yard, a mailbox or even a tree. Regardless, when you get there, take a headcount (including any pets) and be ready to tell responding firefighters if everyone is out of the house.
“That will dictate our operations,” Mitchell said. “If someone is in the house, we’re going in there, we’re going to find them and we’re going to get them out.”
In conjunction with home escape plans, Fire and EMS also is emphasizing the importance of having working smoke alarms in your home. When operating properly, smoke alarms give you the advance warning you need to get everyone out of a burning house safely.
If you don’t have smoke alarms in your home, contact Chesterfield Fire and EMS at 748-1360.
For more information about Chesterfield's April Fire Prevention and Safety initiative, and how to participate in planned activities, visit the county's main Facebook page or the Chesterfield Fire and EMS Department Facebook page.
For tips and other information on how to make a home escape plan, visit the National Fire Protection Association website at https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Staying-safe/Preparedness/Escape-planning