Fire Safety 101: Keeping Your Family Safe
Benjamin Franklin once said, “God helps those who help themselves.” I’ve always loved this quote and I believe it takes on special significance in relation to how we care for our homes and families. I have a friend who is a master of self-reliance. She bakes her own bread, homeschools her four children and maintains a large vegetable garden. Although she and her husband work hard to maintain this self-sufficient lifestyle, I believe she goes to bed feeling peace and contentment, knowing her home is organized and her family is cared for.
One of the things she’s particularly interested in is family safety. She keeps a well-stocked first aid kid in both her home and vehicles and she’s also developed 72 hour emergency kits for each family member. She also has another routine that I think is a fabulous idea: Fire Safety Day.
Twice a year, during Daylight Savings Weekend, my friend conducts a fire safety check. It only takes an hour or so, but the kids think it’s great fun. Most importantly, though, my friend has taken the precautions necessary to ensure that her family is prepared for a fire. Following are a few of the topics my friend covers during Fire Safety Day:
- Check the smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. Use this time to change the batteries in the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Check to make sure the devices are working properly. At the same time, check fire extinguishers and replace them if necessary.
- Plan an escape route. Draw a map of the house and designate two escape routes from each room. Install a collapsible ladder or other device in second story bedrooms and teach older children how to open windows and use the ladders. Make a game of practicing the escape routes, timing how quickly you can get out.
- Designate a meeting place. Determine a meeting place if you should have a fire, such as the front yard or preferably, a neighbor’s yard. Instruct your children to never, ever return to a burning building.
- Teach your children how to get help. Most children know how to dial 9-1-1, but do they know what to say to the dispatcher? A dispatcher will ask for the address and possibly directions, as well as details about the incident. Instruct your children to follow a dispatcher’s instructions very carefully and not to hang up the phone.
- Check for potential fire hazards. Search your home for fire hazards, such as frayed cords or damaged power strips. Cover electrical outlets to prevent electrical burns and replace old, worn appliances. If you use candles, always place them in a stable candle holder out of the reach of children. Extinguish them before you go to bed or leave the house.
- Maintain your fireplace. Clean your wood-burning fireplace at least every two to three years. Over time, ashes and soot build up on the insides of the fireplace, creating creosote. Creosote is very flammable and can cause fires inside the fireplace. If the fire climbs to the chimney, the flames can erupt, potentially causing a fire on your roof or nearby landscaping.
- Practice kitchen fire safety. Kitchens are the number one place for house fires to occur. Reduce your risk by practicing good kitchen fire safety skills. Never leave oil or grease cooking on the stove because hot oil can quickly erupt into flame. Turn pan handles towards the interior of the range and keep pot holders or other flammable materials away from direct heat. Keep a fire extinguisher under the kitchen sink. Never pour water on a grease fire, which will just cause it to expand. Instead, use a fire extinguisher, pour baking soda on the fire or slowly slide the lid over the fire.
- Make your yard fire safe. Your yard is probably your favorite family gathering place. Keep it safe by storing fire wood and propane at least 30 feet from the house. Remove dried leaves or other debris that might catch fire and use backyard fire accessories, such as propane gas fire pit tables carefully. There’s nothing better than roasting marshmallows with your kids and children love playing with and around fire, but teach them to sit down and avoid running around an open fire and of course supervise them at all times. A fire pit table combo that incorporates a table ledge and spark screen to catch embers will keep kids further away from the fire too and is a safe choice for family parties and other gatherings.
Take a cue from my friend and spend an hour or two twice a year updating your fire safety plan. You’ll enjoy the peace of mind that comes from being prepared and your kids will gain confidence in knowing how to stay safe.
Author Bio: Karen Ho Fatt is an interior designer specializing in creating safe outdoor garden environments. She maintains a website, familyfirepit.com that offers a wealth of fire furnishings ideas and tips for families. Karen has a home in the country where she spends many evenings outdoors relaxing by the fire with family and friends.