What's next

Your smoke alarm or alarms are activating, what next? This is a discussion that every family should have before a fire occurs in their home. A practiced home escape plan could be the difference between everyone getting out safely and multiple family members dying in the fire. The actions taken by each family member will determine their ability to get out alive.

Let’s assume that your child sleeps with their door open. If the smoke alarms are electric with a battery backup, then there is a good chance that they are tied together in series. In other words, all of the smoke alarms will go off at the same time, once one of the detectors activates. Smoke travel into your child’s room will be quicker with the door open. Immediate and correct actions are necessary. Once the alarm wakes your child, he/she must roll out of bed and crawl to the door. If there is smoke in the bedroom, it may become necessary to close the door and stuff clothing or blankets under the door. Turn the lights on in the bedroom. The child should then go to the window, open it and decide whether or not to leave out of the window.

If there is a rescue ladder, then your child should deploy it out of the window. Again, this is something that should have been practiced before a fire occurs. If there is no rescue ladder and escape out of the window must occur, then your child must hang and drop from the windowsill. If conditions allow, your child may be able to stay in the room until someone is able to get a ladder to the window.

On the other hand, what changes with the bedroom door closed? When your child wakes up from the alarm, they still must roll out of bed and crawl to the door. The child must check the door with the back of his/her hand. If the door is cool, then they can open it and crawl to the door leading outside, and they can then go to the designated safe meeting place. If the door is hot to the touch, then they cannot open the door, and must do what was stated previously; turn on the bedroom light, stuff blankets or clothing under the door, and follow the other steps noted above.

What if there is a very young child, a pet, or a handicapped family member in the home? The practiced home escape plan must contain actions that must be taken to help them out. It will be someone else’s responsibility to help them to escape. Practicing the plan is the only way that this will go smoothly. You may only get one chance to get it right. In most cases, people get out and realize that other family members are still inside, which causes the worst decision of all- to go back in. Remember the rule, Get Out & Stay Out! Whoever you are going to assist out must be helped as you are leaving yourself.

The designated safe meeting place that everyone needs to go to is somewhere outside of the home that is predetermined before the fire, it might be at the swing set, or the tree in the front yard. The safe place should not be on the other side of a roadway. Remember, the only way that this will go smoothly is practice, practice and practice. As stated before, the actions taken in the moments after a smoke alarm activates could mean the difference between life and death. Houses can be rebuilt, people cannot.       

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