A dangerous mindset

Picture yourself on duty in a fire station at 2 a.m. The entire shift, including you, is sound asleep. At that moment, the lights come on and the all-call-signal sounds, indicating that the whole crew will be responding to an emergency incident. In my years on the job, I responded, from a dead sleep to shootings, fires, medical emergencies, drowning cases, vehicle accidents; you name it. Firefighters, in some stations, expect to wake up multiple times during the night, called on to perform their jobs as effectively at night as they do during the day. Dispatchers are required to dispatch calls as quickly as possible, while firefighters are required to be en route in two minutes or less.

Most of you will never experience what I described in the previous paragraph, except for being in your bed and being awakened from a dead sleep, for who knows what. In fact, why were you awakened from a dead sleep the last time that it occurred? Some might say that a new baby in their home awakened them. Others might work for a company where they are called out in the middle of the night. For most, you go to bed, never expecting to be disturbed until the next morning. How many of you go to bed expecting to wake up to your smoke alarms going off and your house on fire? I would say that most of you go to bed, not giving a thought to a fire ever occurring in your home. This is the dangerous mindset that keeps you from preparing yourself and your family, in the event of a fire or any other emergency at any time of the day or night.

Fatal fires in single-family and multi-family dwellings predominantly occur at night when everyone is sleeping. Not every fatal fire fits this description, but most do. What must we do? First and foremost, the best way to prepare for a fire in your home is to do everything possible to prevent a fire from occurring. When was the last time that you did a home fire safety inspection? If never, what are you waiting for? If you are burning a fireplace or woodstove regularly during these cold temperatures, do not forget to have your chimney cleaned by a reputable company.

How do you go to bed prepared for a fire to occur? I can think of three things you can do to be prepared:

  1. Test your smoke alarms at least once a month
  2. Have a practiced home escape plan. In other words, everyone who sleeps in your home knows the plan.
  3. If you need and have a rescue ladder, make sure that you know how to deploy it and climb down it.

So when you go to bed tonight, sleep easier knowing that you have done everything possible to prepare your family to be awakened by your smoke alarms because your house is on fire. Practicing what they will do during a home escape drill will hopefully help when the house is full of smoke, or worse yet, heavily involved with fire. Please, please, please don’t say, “It will never happen to us.”


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