It’s Fire Prevention Week in Illinois, and it’s the 100th year that Illinois has designated a special week for fire safety awareness, said Philip Zaleski, executive director of the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance. This year’s Fire Prevention Week theme is ‘Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape.’
When there is smoke, “drop low” to keep from inhaling too much smoke, and get out of the house, Zaleski said. Children who are scared may hide under their bed or shut themselves in a closet when they see smoke or fire.
“That’s the worst thing someone can possibly do,” Zaleski said.
A fire escape plan teaches children what to do. By practicing, we can help make their safe response automatic, he said.
“Any person staying in the home should know how to escape and where to meet up with the rest of the family once they get outside,” Zaleski said.
He recommends going through the home and evaluating each room.
“Practice how to get out of any room in two different ways,” Zaleski said. That could be two different doorways. A doorway and a window. Two different windows. Unless parents show children what to do in case of fire, how can they be expected to know, Zaleski said.
He recommends turning the family escape plan into a game that everyone can practice a couple of times a year.
“Even though it is a very serious thing, families can make it a fun activity,” Zaleski said.
A critical part of an escape plan is a meet up place for household members once they get outside. That way they can tell firefighters whether or not to go inside a burning building to search for someone. Designate a meet up place that is away from the burning home. A tree near a sidewalk, a mailbox, a lamp post or a neighbor’s home can all be designated as the meet up point.
“If everyone doesn’t get together at the same place, there may be an assumption that someone is still in the house,” Zaleski said.
Three out of five home fire deaths occur in homes that do not have working smoke detectors, Zaleski said. He recommends that homeowners who do not have hardwired smoke detectors in their houses get new 10-year, sealed-battery smoke alarms. No expensive batteries to replace. No annoying beeps when the batteries get old. The sealed-battery smoke detectors last for 10 years, Zaleski said.
- Check space heater cords and holiday light cords for fraying. Get rid of anything that has a cord with exposed wires.
- Don’t put a cord underneath a rug or a carpet. Cords fray when they rub against rugs. Keep space heaters at least 3 feet from drapes or blankets or anything that can catch fire. Buy space heaters with automatic shut offs. Don’t leave space heaters unattended. A pet or a child can knock over a space heater and start a fire.
- Many local firehouses have smoke detectors to give away to low income families. Families with caseworkers can ask the caseworkers for smoke detectors if they need them.
This article originally appeared on The Center Square.