Headlines like the one screaming out of the Bronx where 12 people, including four children, died in an apartment building blaze put a damper on holiday celebrations. Sadly, stories like that about the deadliest fire in New York City since 1990 play out across the country during the holiday and winter season.
The small town of Hibbing, Minn., experienced its own tragedy when four family members died in a late night blaze
on December 26, including a retired firefighter who initially escaped the blaze but returned to try to save his grandchildren.
While these stories may not make the national news, they do tear a hole in families and communities, tragedies that often can be avoided or at least loss of life can be abated when families take proper precautions and prepare a fire safety escape plan.
Beware of Fire Dangers
The winter holidays are a high-risk time for house fires for several reasons – decorations, cooking, overnight guests, colder weather.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, the No. 1 cause of house fires
from 2010-14 was cooking (46 percent), but the deadliest fires were caused by smoking materials (22 percent). Cooking and heating fires tied for second in the cause of fatal fires at 19 percent each. Electrical distribution and lighting was fourth at 16 percent.
The vast majority of smoking related fires were the result of upholstery or bedding catching fire, which points to the dangers of smoking while falling asleep and the combination of smoking and drinking.
Cooking fires mostly are attributed to unattended pots and pans left on the stove or frying, as cooks often get distracted by all the guests gathering around. Cooking fires also create the greatest risk of injury, primarily as people try to fight these fires themselves.
Heating fires include those caused not only by faulty furnaces, but also space heaters and fireplaces or wood-burning stoves used improperly.
Make an Escape Plan
The best way to prevent deaths in the event of a house fire is to have an escape plan in place that everyone in the house understands.
recommends every family walk through their home and learn where all possible exits are and to ensure exits are not blocked by furniture or other objects that would be difficult to move.
Families should draw a floor plan of their home and mark two possible escape routes from each room, in case the primary escape route is blocked by fire. Children especially need to be made aware of these escape routes, and families should practice escape to reduce panic if a fire occurs. NFPA offers a downloadable floor plan grid families can use to create their escape plans.
The escape plan also should include a meeting place (a neighbor’s home, mail box, street light, etc.) a safe distance from the home where everyone gathers after escaping the home. Additionally, if you have infant children or adult with mobility problems, someone should be assigned responsibility for helping those individuals.
Smoke alarms also should be installed in each sleeping room and outside each sleeping area in your home. Alarms should be tested occasionally and batteries should be changed when clocks are changed in the spring and fall.
If you have guests for the holidays, make sure you share your escape plan with them so they understand how to exit the home. If you are visiting someone, ask about their escape plan. If they don’t have one, offer to assist them in developing a plan.
Once out of your house, do not return. If someone is missing, inform the dispatcher when you call or firefighters on the scene as they have training and proper equipment to form a rescue if someone is trapped in the fire.
would like to help your family remain safe as you create your Next Best Years™. If you have more questions about how to create a fire safety plan for your family, contact one of our agents today.
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