As I was sitting at a theatre with my niece and nephew waiting in anticipation for the movie to start, my little niece looks over to me and asks, “What do we do if there is a fire?”. I opened my mouth ready to answer, and I realized, I didn’t really know. Yes, follow the emergency exit path. Obviously.
But that got me thinking what would a child do if there is a fire at home? What would the parents do? Do Indian households have fire alarms and fire safety evacuation plans ready in advance? Being equipped and ready to handle any situation is half the solution to a problem. This means you should always be aware of potential hazards in your home, and be prepared for any situation.
Here are some tips to help you stay safe.
Prevention is better than cure. Secure your home.
- Ensure all appliances are in good condition without loose or frayed cords and plugs.
- Do not overload extension boxes or power outlet strips with plugs.
- Ensure all your appliances and outlets are grounded.
- Use the right wattage bulbs and lights.
- Replace or professionally repair any appliances that may smell unusual, spark, or overheat.
- Make sure bedside lamps or night lights do not touch bedspreads drapes or any fabric.
- Don’t let your little ones operate any appliances without complete supervision.
- Never leave heaters, irons, hair curling irons, hair straighteners or hair dryers on.
- Ensure you turn off the gas, oven and microwave every time you use them or leave the house.
- Keep matches, lighters, candles and other flammable products away from children.
Equip your home.
- Install fire alarms in your house. Research shows that almost 60% of all fatal residential fires occur in homes that don’t have smoke alarms, so this may be the single most important thing you can do to keep your family safe from fires. As smoke rises, ensure the smoke detectors are placed on the ceilings or high on walls. In case a smoke detector goes off near your kitchen, do not take the battery out of it, open the windows instead.
- Fire extinguishers. Equip every room in your home with strategically placed fire extinguishers. Teach your little ones how to use a fire extinguisher in case of an emergency. Try buying an all-purpose extinguisher which can be used to put out fires that are grease based as well as electrical fires. Fire extinguishers have gauges on them indicating when they need to be replaced and should be checked regularly to make sure they’re still functional.If you’re ever in doubt about whether to use an extinguisher on a fire, don’t try it. Instead, leave the house immediately and call the fire department.
- Educate your little ones about Fire Safety
In case of a fire, a child’s natural instinct may be to hide under a bed or table, in the closet or in the corner of a room. This however, will lead to possibility of the child being trapped. If taught basic fire facts, they will be able to protect themselves better. Most fire-related deaths are not from burns but from smoke inhalation and inhalation of basic fumes. Apart from being educated about this, children should also learn to:
- Cover their mouth with a moist towel or moist cloth to prevent inhalation of smoke or other fumes.
- Crawl low and under the smoke and stay as close to the floor as possible, as smoke always rises.
- In case of a fire, lightly touch a door (not the doorknob) before opening it. If the door is hot, it is not to be opened.
- Follow the emergency evacuation plan in case of a fire. If your home or apartment does not have a evacuation plan, it is advisable to create an appropriate evacuation plan with the help of professionals.
- Never stop to collect personal belongings or to make a phone call.
- Never go back into a burning building once safely outside.
- Stop, drop and roll to extinguish flames if any article of clothing is on fire.
- Practice fire drills at home.
By rehearsing different possible scenarios, you can help your family save time in case of an evacuation. Fires are scary and can cause panic, if your little ones are equipped with the knowledge and skills to safely evacuate, there is a less likelihood of injuries and excessive panic.
Planned escape routes are necessary, especially if the fire were to occur at night. While planning escape routes, try and come up with at least two different routes from each room. Try to leave all doorways and windows unblocked to ensure they can be used as a way to escape, if necessary.
Discuss and rehearse the escape routes you’ve planned for each room of your home. If your apartment does not have a safe assembly point, designate a meeting place outside your house or apartment building that is a safe distance away where everyone can be accounted for after they escape.
A little education, prevention and practice goes a long way in ensuring a calm evacuation with as little injuries as possible.