As little as two minutes. That's how long you may have if a fire starts in your home, so you can see how important the early warnings are from your working smoke alarms in your Chattanooga home. Each year more than 2,500 people die and 12,600 are injured in home fires in the United States, with direct property loss due to home fires estimated at $7.3 billion annually.
Fire knowledge is a powerful tool in keeping you and your family safe. Fire spreads quickly. If a fire is discovered in your home, there is no time to gather valuables or make a phone call. As mentioned, in just two minutes, a fire can become life-threatening. In five minutes, a residence can be engulfed in flames.
The flames in a fire are extremely dangerous, but more than that, heat and smoke from fire can be more dangerous. Breathing in the super-hot air generated during a fire can sear your lungs. Fire also produces carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is extremely poisonous and can claim your life quickly. Carbon monoxide makes you disoriented and drowsy. Instead of being awakened by a fire, you may fall into a deeper sleep. Asphyxiation is the leading cause of fire deaths, exceeding burns by a three-to-one ratio.
What can you do to help keep your family safe?
- Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, especially inside bedrooms and outside of sleeping areas. Studies have shown that after a certain period of time, smoke detectors lose their sensitivity and become unreliable. If your smoke alarm is ten years old or older, it's time to replace it.
- Test smoke alarm batteries every month. It's simple. If they aren't working, change out the batteries!
- Develop a fire escape plan for your family and practice that place at least twice a year.
- Should a fire occur in your home, GET OUT. STAY OUT. Call for help. NEVER go back inside a burning house for anything or anyone.
- Install carbon monoxide detectors. As previously mentioned, this poisonous gas is extremely dangerous. If you are replacing your smoke detectors, look dual options. Many of the newer smoke detector models also include a carbon monoxide detector.
The American Red Cross also offers some life-saving tips, should a fire start in your home:
- Know how to safely operate a fire extinguisher
- Remember to GET OUT, STAY OUT and CALL 9-1-1 or your local emergency phone number.
- Yell "Fire!" several times and go outside right away. If you live in a building with elevators, use the stairs. Leave all your things where they are and save yourself.
- If closed doors or handles are warm or smoke blocks your primary escape route, use your second way out. Never open doors that are warm to the touch.
- If you must escape through smoke, get low and go under the smoke to your exit. Close doors behind you.
- If smoke, heat or flames block your exit routes, stay in the room with doors closed. Place a wet towel under the door and call the fire department or 9-1-1. Open a window and wave a brightly colored cloth or flashlight to signal for help.
- Once you are outside, go to your meeting place and then send one person to call the fire department. If you cannot get to your meeting place, follow your family emergency communication plan.
It's always best to be prepared. Even though Fire Prevention Week is just one week out of the year, fire safety and prevention should be an ongoing effort in your Chattanooga home. If you need further assistance or tips for keeping your home safe from fire, you can contact your local fire department.