The month of October is fire prevention month every year. Towns and fire departments across the United States assemble and open the doors to the public for an educational outing on fire safety. Most fire departments will put on a static display of all their tools, equipment, trucks, and gear for the public to see. In addition, it is not uncommon for demonstrations to be provided to the public at these events such as repealing, fire sprinkler demonstrations, dive, and drones to name a few. I have even witnessed some larger towns that host huge fire prevention nights land a helicopter for the public to witness and see firsthand what its like working in, and under a helicopter. The backbone of fire prevention month is created by the National Fire Protection Administration (NFPA). Every year the NFPA has a different theme for that year’s fire prevention month. Last year was “The Sounds of Fire Safety.” As Fire Prevention Week (FPW) celebrates its 100th anniversary this October, this year’s theme is, “Fire Won’t Wait. Plan Your Escape.” The kids in school do fire alarm drills, that concept shouldn’t stop there. Drills need to be completed at home as well. There needs to be a plan in place so when the worst occurs, its muscle memory for the family to fall back on to get out of the house safely.
This year’s FPW campaign, “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape™”, works to educate everyone about simple but important actions they can take to keep themselves and those around them safe from home fires. Today’s homes burn faster than ever. You may have as little as three minutes (or even less time) to safely escape a home fire from the time the smoke alarm sounds. Your ability to get out of a home during a fire depends on early warning from smoke alarms and advance planning. The contents we have in our home today are much different from what we were raised with and significantly different than our grandparent’s furniture. The home furnishings of today are synthetic, burn hotter, faster, and off gas 200% more toxic smoke in comparison to our grandparent’s legacy furniture. Home fire safety starts with the smoke alarm. Smoke alarms need to be checked that they are in good working order. Statically a home will experience flash over in less than five minutes time from the time of ignition. Flashover is when everything in the room becomes the same temperature and turns into a ball of fire at the same time. The early warning signal of smoke from a detector is crucial to survival in a house fire. In addition to home smoke detectors, residential fire sprinklers are real life savers. A residential fire sprinkler is designed to control the fire, thus buying time for the occupants to escape safely. In addition, a fire sprinkler will help extend the time it takes for a home to flashover and buy time for the fire department to arrive on location and attack the fire.
In short, a fire sprinkler is a mini firefighter that lives on the ceiling ready to deploy at the right temperature. A residential fire sprinkler is engineered to flow 15 gallons per minute (GPM) to control the fire. In comparison, when the fire department flows water to suppress the flames, they will flow upwards of 150 GPM from just a single 1 ¾” hose line and up to 195 GPM for a 2 ½” hose line. For a working residential house fire there can be upwards of three to five hose lines in operation of all different diameters flowing different GPM. The negative stigma that is associated with fire sprinklers is that they cause water damage. In reality, a residential fire sprinkler only flows between 12 and 15 GMP. Having fire sprinklers buys time to get out of your home. Having both fire sprinklers and smoke detectors is a winning combination to keep you family safe and protected. Whether you have one or both of these fire prevention tools it is still an essential practice to heed this year’s fire prevention theme and make an escape plan.
The NFPA has provided some insight on this year’s fire prevention theme.
“Fire Won’t Wait. Plan Your Escape” theme:
- Make sure your home escape plan meets the needs of all your family members, including those with sensory or physical disabilities.
- Smoke alarms should be installed inside every sleeping room, outside each separate sleeping area, and on every level of your home. Smoke alarms should be interconnected so when one sounds, they all sound.
- Know at least two ways out of every room, if possible. Make sure all doors and windows open easily.
- Have an outside meeting place a safe distance from your home where everyone should meet.
- Practice your home fire drill at least twice a year with everyone in the household, including guests. Practice at least once during the day and at night.
“Fire Won’t Wait. Plan Your Escape” is a potentially life-saving message that can mean the difference between life and death in a fire. Developing a home escape plan with all members of the household and practicing it regularly ensures that everyone knows what to do when the smoke alarm sounds and uses that short window of time to escape wisely.