No family wants to think about the possibility of a fire damaging their home, or potentially harming their loved ones. However, as the saying goes, the best defense is a good offense. Preparedness for one of the number one disasters in our nation, whether it is a natural disaster, an accident, or arson, is crucial. According to statistics gathered from the U.S. Fire Administration and FEMA, at least 3,500 people die each year from house fires, and at least 18,300 are injured due to smoke inhalation, burns, and falling from structures. Most of these fires occur in the home. However, the positive lesson to be learned from the devastation of fires is that they’re preventable, and there are many things home owners, renters, and even business owners can do to protect their investment, as well as themselves and their families.
Having functioning smoke alarms in every home is essential; fires are not always immediately detected. There should be a smoke alarm on every level of the home, and preferably in every bedroom, as well as the kitchen. Contact your local fire department for assistance in installation. FIRST 5 Mendocino has a partnership with local fire departments, and provides free smoke alarms with a 10 year lithium battery for families with children ages 0-5 years. They can be reached at (707)-462-4453, or visit their website at www. mendochildren.org.
When using appliances or the heater, always follow the manufacturer’s safety precautions. Sparks, unusual smells, and shorts in the circuit are signs of a problem and the appliance needs to be repaired or replaced. If using a portable heater or candles, make sure nothing flammable such as clothing, paper, or furniture, is within reach. Investing in a home sprinkler system will increase your chances of surviving a house fire. They are affordable, and can increase property value as well as lower home insurance rates.
If your home does experience a fire, there are several things that can be done to ensure emergency responders can find your home as quickly as possible, especially if you live in a rural area. One tip is having your address number sign visible from the road from at least 100 feet in both directions. The sign should be metal, reflective, with numbers at least 3” tall. Numbers on mailboxes should be large, on both sides, and not covered up by anything else on the mail box, such as the red pickup flag.
Planning an escape route from your home is one of the most essential strategies when faced with a house fire. A plan of escape should be created from every room in the house. Incorporating safety concerns, such as prevention of smoke inhalation by remaining low to the floor, will prevent injuries. Avoiding doors that are hot is extremely important in order to avoid injury and prevent the spread of the fire to the rest of the home.
These tips, including more on rural fire safety and escape planning, can be found at www.usfa.fema.gov. The Mendocino Fire Safe Council website also has several helpful links for rural folks, including how to deal with wildfires and burn permits. Visit them at www.firesafemendocino.org Support the Mendocino County Fire Safe Council today by becoming an MCFSC member, or contributing a donation, so fire safety can remain a top priority for our community.