This week of National Preparedness Month will focus on house fires and wildfires. Wildfires have been common in Oklahoma recently, and now is the perfect time to brush up on fire prevention skills. The American Red Cross responds to both house and wildfires, and knowing how to be prepared for and prevent fires saves lives. Family fire drills should be a staple of any team’s playbook, just as practice drills are for any sports teams.
Preparing and Preventing House Fires
House fires are the single most common disaster across the nation. There are many steps that can be taken immediately in order to prevent or prepare for house fires. These include installing and maintaining smoke alarms, fire escape planning, cooking safety, and educating children and adults on risky behaviors.
Cooking fires are the leading cause of home fires, and most start with the range or stove. When cooking, be sure to keep anything that can catch fire away from the stove, like pot holders, towels, plastic, and clothing. Keep pets off cooking surfaces and countertops to prevent them from knocking things onto the burner. Stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling, or broiling food and turn off the stove if you must leave, even for a short period of time. Stay at home while simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food and use a timer to check it regularly to remind you that food is cooking.
Be sure to keep items that can catch on fire at least three feet away from anything that gets hot, such as space heaters, and turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to sleep. Never smoke in bed. And be sure to talk to children regularly about the dangers of playing with matches and lighters and keep them out of reach. Just over half of child-playing fires in the home start in a bedroom, and bedding material is most often the first item ignited.
Smoke alarms are the best way to protect loved ones from house fires. Make sure smoke alarms are installed on every level of the home, both inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas, and in the kitchen. Once a month check whether each alarm in the home is working properly by pushing the test button. Replace batteries in smoke alarms at least once a year and immediately install a new battery if an alarm chirps, warning the battery is low. Smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years. And never disable a smoke alarm.
Teach children what smoke alarms sound like and what to do when they hear one. Ensure that all household members know two ways to escape from every room of the home. Make sure everyone knows where to meet outside in case of fire, like next to a neighbor’s mailbox. Practice escaping from the home at least twice a year and at different times of the day. Have everyone practice waking up to smoke alarms, low crawling, and meeting outside. Make sure everyone knows how to call 9-1-1 and teach household members to STOP, DROP and ROLL if their clothes should catch on fire.
For more information, visit the Red Cross website or download this printable fire safety checklist.
Preparing for Wildfires
Wildfires can be common in rural or wooded areas, and it is important for families to be prepared in case one occurs near the home. Plan and practice two ways out of the neighborhood in case the primary route is blocked. Select a place for family members to meet outside the neighborhood in case of evacuation or separation. Identify someone who is out of the area to contact if local phone lines are not working.
Post emergency phone numbers by every phone in the home. Make sure driveway entrances and house numbers are clearly marked for emergency workers. If possible, identify and maintain an adequate water source outside the home, such as a small pond, cistern, well or swimming pool. Set aside household items that can be used as fire tools, such as a rake, ax, hand saw or chain saw, bucket, and shovel. There may be a need to fight small fires before emergency responders arrive. When building, select building materials and plants that resist fire. Be sure to regularly clean roofs and gutters.
Have an emergency kit prepped and ready in case evacuation is required, listen to local radio and TV stations for updated information, and be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
Download the Wildfire App
Anyone with an iPhone or Android smartphone can download the free Red Cross Wildfire App. The app offers real time alerts and Red Cross shelter locations, as well as instant access to information on what to do before, during and after a wildfire. The app features personalized local information, a toolkit with a flashlight, and an “I’m Safe” feature to help people connect with loved ones.
The Red Cross Wildfire App gives people alerts and warnings within 100 miles of a specific location so users can track fires and get ahead of the danger by using a trio of Blaze Tracker information. Blaze Warnings show where conditions are favorable for potential wildfires. Blaze Alerts signal when a wildfire has begun within 100 miles of a user’s location. And Blaze Path Tracker shows an existing wildfire’s perimeter, how it has spread and its current location.
Being prepared for fire, both home and wildfire, is very important to every household. Take this opportunity to prepare ahead of time, and make sure the only thing that catches fire is your winning streak.