Special to Iredell Free News
RALEIGH — In the midst of a very deadly year for fire fatalities in North Carolina, Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Mike Causey urges residents to stay focused on fire safety and prevention this winter by remembering this simple message: “Get out and stay out!”
So far in 2020, 105 people have lost their lives in North Carolina because of fire. In two recent cases, the victims died as a result of exiting the home and then re-entering the home to retrieve personal belongings or a pet while the home was on fire.
“If your home catches on fire, your number one concern should be saving yourself and your family. Forget about personal belongings and just get outside as quickly as possible,” Causey said. “Stay outside at your meeting place where you can do the most good by communicating with firefighters.”
The science behind fires proves that re-entering a burning home is extremely dangerous. If you open a door or a window to go back inside, you let in oxygen which causes the fire to engulf a room, making it nearly impossible to rescue the person or pet you’re trying to save.
To reduce the number of fire deaths this winter, Causey urges families to practice their home escape plan, test their smoke alarms, and know two ways out of every room to keep you and your loved ones safe from fire.
Each year during December, January, and February, there is an increase in the number of home fires related to heating. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating is the second leading cause of home fires, deaths and injuries in the U.S.
Smoke Alarms Save Lives
Working smoke alarms save lives and cut the risk of dying in a fire in half, according to the NFPA.
Causey, who is adamant that smoke alarms be installed, tested and maintained in every home, recommends the following advice related to smoke alarms:
♦ Install smoke alarms in every sleeping room, outside each separate sleeping room, and on every level of the home, including the basement.
♦ An ionization smoke alarm is generally more responsive to flaming fires, and a photoelectric smoke alarm is generally more responsive to smoldering fires. For the best protection, a combination of alarms or dual-sensor alarms are recommended.
♦ To keep smoke alarms working well, follow the manufacturer’s instructions in the package or online for cleaning.
♦ Make sure everyone in your home understands the warning of the smoke alarm and knows how to respond.
Smoke alarms with non-replaceable batteries (long-life) batteries are designed to remain effective for up to 10 years. Replace smoke alarms when they are 10 years old. If the alarm chirps warning that the battery is low, replace the entire unit right away.
Make an Escape Plan
Causey recommends the following advice regarding home escape plans:
♦ Draw a map of each level of the home, showing all doors and windows, and discuss the plan with everyone in your household, including visitors.
♦ Practice your home fire escape drill twice a year with everyone in your home. Practice using different ways out. Practice what to do in case there is smoke (get low and go and get out fast).
♦ Establish a permanent outside meeting place (such as a tree, light pole or mailbox) that is a safe distance from your home.
♦ After you’ve practiced your home escape drill, evaluate it and discuss what worked and what could be improved.
♦ When a smoke alarm sounds, get out fast. You may have only seconds to escape.
♦ If there is smoke blocking the exit, use your second way out. Before opening a door, feel the door and its knob. If either is hot, leave the door closed and use your second way out. If there is smoke coming around the door, leave the door closed and use your second way out.
♦ Get out and stay out. Go to your established meeting place. Never go back for people, pets or things. If you can’t get to someone needing assistance, leave the home and call 911 or the fire department. Tell the emergency operator where the person is located.
♦ If you can’t get out, close the door and cover the vents and cracks around doors with cloth or tape to keep smoke out. Call 911, tell the emergency operator where you are and signal for help at the window with a light-colored cloth or a flashlight.