10 Oct October is Fire Prevention Month in Massachusetts: Every Second Counts – Plan 2 Ways Out!
October is Fire Prevention Month in Massachusetts
For many of us New Englanders, autumn is a highly anticipated season, when our weekends will be filled with fun activities like apple picking and hayrides, with delicious smells of homemade chili, stews and pumpkin pies, with nights spent reading and playing board games by the fireplace, and, of course, with football, football, football.
This time of year in Massachusetts is truly special. However, as your local insurance professional, the team at HUB International also feels we have a responsibility to take a moment to remind you of some of the risks that this picturesque and colorful season brings with it.
An annual event, the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Fire Prevention Week, is coming up October 8th – 14th. This year’s theme is “Every Second Counts: Plan Two Ways Out,” so to support this critical campaign, your HUB International professionals would like to discuss how to plan a safe escape in the event of a fire and some crucial at-home fire prevention measures as well.
Have You Designed and Practiced Not One, But Two Escape Plans?
This year’s fire prevention week theme is a tremendously important message. Recommending that we have two ways out in case of a fire catastrophe reminds us that we can never be too prepared when it comes to fire safety. So, whether you’ve been living in the same house for ten years, just moved into your first home, recently downsized into a brand-new condominium complex, or your family is renting an apartment, now is the perfect time to establish and practice your fire escape plan.
Haven’t thought about a fire escape plan for your home lately? You are not alone. In fact, according to a recent NFPA survey, only one-third of Americans have both developed and practiced an escape plan.
It can be scary to think about a possible fire catastrophe happening at your home, but even more frightening not to address the possibility, especially when you know all the facts. For example, in the same survey conducted by the NFPA, one-third of Americans believed that they would have at least six minutes before a fire in their home would become life threatening. Whereas fire experts agree that families often have as little as two minutes to escape in the event of a fire. This small window does not leave much time for the decision-making process, so if you don’t have a well thought-out plan of escape, you could cause your family unnecessary stress and waste precious seconds when your lives are at stake. Thus, it is strongly recommended that you take the time now to rally the troops (including the family pets) and discuss, organize and practice your very own escape plan.
We understand that creating an emergency escape plan for your home may seem like a small to-do on your ever-growing fall chores list. But, trust us, this is one task that you do not want to put off any longer.
Just imagine for a second that it’s the middle of the night. Your kids are sound asleep in the next room and the house is silent and pitch black. Suddenly, you are startled awake by the sound of what appears to be a loud, blaring alarm of some kind. It takes a few pounding heartbeats to recognize that the siren is neither your early morning gym alarm nor one of your kids’ video games. Now you realize that it is your fire alarm going off and you actually smell smoke!
In this situation, would you know exactly what to do next to ensure that you and your loved ones get out of the house as quickly as possible? Or, will you find yourself panicking and trying to catch your breath because you’re confused about what steps to take?
If this seems a bit dramatic – it was intentional! We want you to feel how truly important it is to prepare an escape plan for a potential fire or other emergency, although we truly hope you never have to execute it.
Not sure where to start in planning your family’s unique escape plan? Lucky for you, the NFPA has put together an easy-to-follow Home Fire Escape Plan that takes away all the guess work. Below, we have pulled out some of the most significant steps.
Key Steps To Designing Your Home Fire Escape Plan
- Start by drawing a map of your home that shows all of your doors and windows.
- Take a tour of the house with your entire family in tow. Be sure to visit each room and identify two possible exits, this includes windows and doors.
- When inside each room, make sure that all windows and doors easily open and there are no obstructions.
- Make sure your home has compliant smoke alarms. It is recommended that you check them once a month, change batteries annually, and, as last year’s NFPA 2016 Fire Prevention Week theme, “Don’t Wait: Check the Date!” Replace Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years,” suggests, replace them every 10 years. Also, have at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home, as well as outside of each sleeping area and in every bedroom.
- Choose an outside meeting place for your entire family. The NFPA recommends a spot in front of your home. Another great option is to gather at or in front of a neighbor’s home, with their permission of course. The important thing is to make sure that you and your loves ones are together and a safe distance from the fire.
- While outside, make sure your house or building number is easily seen from the street, day or night, so emergency personnel can find your home quickly. Having sufficient exterior lighting will also allow you and your family to see in the event of a nighttime fire.
- Talk through your plan with everyone that lives in your home and flush out any questions anyone may have.
- Take the time to pre-program the local fire department’s emergency phone number into your smart phone, along with everyone else’s devices in your family.
- Practice makes perfect! Practice your home fire drill at least twice a year, once at night and once during the day when everyone is home.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fire safety tips and, in particular, how to make your fire escape plan. For more information, please visit the NFPA and take advantage of their free, very useful, and potentially lifesaving resources.
Do You Have Young Children, Seniors or Pets Living in Your Home?
These special family members can present unique challenges in the event of a fire. Using additional tips from the NFPA, the insurance professionals at HUB International have put together several key fire safety measures for you to review. Please consider whether you are doing everything you can to not only prevent a fire from happening, but also to protect everyone in your household in case it does.
Families with Young Children
The U.S. Fire Administration, in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the American Academy of Pediatrics, NFPA, National SAFE KIDS Campaign and ZERO TO THREE, recommend three P’s of fire safety – Prevent, Plan, and Practice – for children under five. Here is what that means for you:
- If you want to prevent a fire from starting in the first place, here are a few things, you and your young family can do:
- Designate a family room for playtime, preferably a room that is far away from the kitchen.
- Put matches, lighters and candles far away from where curious fingers can find them.
- Building forts out of sheets and pillows and cuddling up fireside, while fun for the kids can be potential fire hazards. Be sure to keep all flammable items a safe distance from the fireplace, open-flamed candles and space heaters.
- Do not overcrowd electrical outlets, extension cords or surge protectors with your children’s iPads, smartphones, laptops and gaming consoles.
- As we’ve mentioned previously, plan your escape and involve the entire family, including small children, and let’s not forget your favorite babysitter.
- A fire emergency is scary at any age, but it can be particularly terrifying for any youngsters in your home. Many children try to hide in the event of a fire, often in a closet or under a bed. Teaching your little ones basic fire facts, as well as walking them through your family’s escape plan ahead of time, will help you keep them safe in the event of a fire.
- If you and your family frequently use a babysitter, it is important to make sure that they too are aware of your family’s escape plan. Consider asking your sitter to walk through the escape route with you and your family before your next night out. This is a great way to not only make sure your babysitter is comfortable with the plan, but to also familiarize your little ones on what to do during an emergency when both parents are not home.
- Everyone knows that the only way to become good at something is to practice, and your fire safety plan is no exception. As a family, take the time to practice what you will do if you see or smell smoke, or if you hear the sound of your smoke detector, including:
- React fast. The faster you act and retreat outside and away from the fire, the safer you will be.
- Get out of the house and stay out. Do not go back in for any reason.
- If you see or smell smoke, remember “Get Low and Go!”.
Families Living with an Older/Elderly Family Member
While a grandparent or great aunt/uncle may protest when you try to talk to them about fire safety – after all, at their age, they probably think they know a thing or two about fire safety – we highly encourage you to persist in having this conversation. Just like the rest of the family, it’s really important that they fully understand fire safety measures. You can start by reminding them of these three critical steps:
- Dial 9-1-1. Explain that, in the event of an emergency, they should always call 9-1-1, making sure to state the emergency, their location, and their name and phone number. If you they have a cell phone, pre-program all local emergency numbers into their phone for easy accessibility.
- Stop, Drop and Roll may be something they remember from their school days and it still holds up today. This tactic should be used in the event their clothing catches fire. Remind your loved one that fire can spread rapidly, so it’s of the utmost importance not to run or walk. Instead, they should always stop, drop to the floor and roll to smother out the flames.
- Smoke Alarms Can Save Lives, but not if your family member can’t hear them going off. According to the NFPA, almost two-thirds of home fire-related deaths happen in homes with no working smoke alarms. It is recommended that smoke alarms should be installed on each level of your home, including the basement, inside each bedroom and in the hallway outside of all sleeping areas. However, what if your elderly family member is hearing impaired? Fortunately, for these very cases, there are specially-designed smoke detectors that are equipped with strobe lights and high-pitched tones. In addition, accessories can be purchased that actually will shake your family member’s bed. Some of these specialty smoke alarms can be purchased at www.lifetonesafety.com and www.safeawake.com.
Families with Pets
As a pet owner, it is important to remember that you play a fundamental role in your four-legged friend’s safety in the event of a fire. The NFPA recommends that you include all pets in your family’s evacuation plan and that you prepare evacuation kits for each one of your animal companions. To learn more about what you should pack in your pet’s evacuation kit, be sure to download the NFPA’s Take Action Pets Checklist.
Who Can Help You Protect Everything Under Your Roof?
In the event of a fire, the number one priority is getting you and the members of your household to safety. But where do you go from there? One immediate call you should make is to your HUB International insurance professional. Our team will guide you through the steps you will need to take to file a claim and to begin repairing or rebuilding your home and replacing your belongings. In addition, we can assist you, based on your home insurance coverage, in finding alternative housing if your residence has become unlivable.
When a fire event affects your family, we know it can be a very stressful and emotional time for everyone involved. The team at HUB International will be here throughout your recovery process to answer your questions and help you make informed decisions on how to continue to safeguard your family, home, possessions, and everything that is important to you.
If you are ready for a more personal relationship with a trusted insurance agent who can help you protect everything under your roof, call us today at (800) 243-8134 or stop into any one of our five convenient Massachusetts offices.