GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Amid continued power outages and the unprecedented number of fatal fires in the Triad this past month, local fire departments say now is a critical time for families to review safety procedures and check safety devices.
Greensboro Fire Department's fire and life safety educator April Robertson reiterated the outages serve as a reminder for families to change the batteries of their smoke alarms. She also noted some smoke alarms are hard-wired, which will prevent them from working in an outage unless owners have installed backup batteries. Additionally, she reminded families smoke alarms must be completely replaced every 10 years.
Robertson also urged families to review their fire escape plans. Statistics reveal only one in three households has developed and practiced a home fire escape plan. Though 71 percent of households have created a plan, only 45 percent have practiced it. She said typically, people have only up to three minutes to evacuate a fire before it becomes life-threatening. More often than suspected, she said, people--and children--sleep though smoke alarms. Robertson also warned people to be conscious of where they store batteries, as nine volts can get hot and ignite inside a drawer.
The Greensboro Fire Department has issued the following safety tips:
- Make a home escape plan. Draw a map of the home detailing all doors and windows. Discuss the plan with everyone in the home.
- Know at least two ways out of every room, if possible. Make sure all doors and windows leading outside open easily.
- Have an outside meeting place (like a tree, light pole or mailbox) a safe distance from the home. (A meeting place allows the family and fire department to quickly determine whether anyone is still in the home and prevents confusion about whether anyone has gone elsewhere, like neighbor's house, to seek shelter.)
- Practice the fire drill both at night and during the day, at least twice a year. Also, practice a drill children do not know is planned.
- Practice using different ways out of the house.
- Teach children how to escape on their own, in the event adults are not able to reach them or are incapacitated in a fire.
- Close doors after leaving the room. Also, stuff a blanket under cracks in the door, so as to prevent smoke from filling the room.
Robertson also stressed the importance of checking window functionality. She said it is critical to ensure the following:
- The window opens.
- A child is able to unlock and open the window or break the window.
- No furniture is blocking the window.
- No shrubs or bushes outside are obstructing the window.
Additionally, Robertson stressed the importance of knowing to NEVER HIDE. She said parents should make sure their children know to go to the window, if they cannot get out of their rooms. She said when the fire department arrives on scene, fire fighters survey the household before entering the building. So, waving a sheet and yelling or blowing a whistle out of the window can alert fire fighters to the person still trapped in the building.
Home owners can request a free smoke alarm or alarm batteries by calling the Greensboro Fire Department at 336-574-4088. People also can call that number to request a "signal three," which is a pre-escape plan drawn by the fire department. It is a plan designed to help individuals who have a disability or medical condition that would prevent them from being able to escape a fire.