In 2010, fire departments across the country responded to 369,500 home structure fires. That’s one home structure fire every 85 seconds. In addition to causing $6.4 billion dollars in direct damage, these fires left 2,640 civilians dead and another 13,350 injured. If a fire were to start in your home, would you be prepared?
Fire Prevention Week begins Oct. 7, and the Wrightsville Beach Fire Department and nonprofit National Fire Protection Agency are teaming up to urge residents to plan and practice for the unfortunate event of a fire in their home. This year’s theme for the program is “Have Two Ways Out!”
“It’s important to have a secondary route in case the first one is blocked,” said Chief Frank Smith of the Wrightsville Beach Fire Department. “That’s the part that, unfortunately, a lot of citizens don’t follow through with.”
Members of the fire department will be visiting schools and community centers Oct. 7-13, and educating people about the importance of making a plan for their homes and families.
When making an escape plan, the Wrightsville Beach Fire Department recommends that families form an evacuation plan, which includes drawing a map of their house and marking doors or windows that could be used to escape from each room, as well as establish a meeting place in front of the house. Families should have an adult sound the smoke alarm and practice their escape plan at least twice a year. WBFD also recommends keeping a copy of the map and a list of emergency contacts on the refrigerator door.
Smith expressed special concern for some of the taller buildings on Wrightsville Beach that may only have one exit.
“If a fire starts on one of the lower floors, the stairway acts like a kind of chimney and the first place the fire wants to go is up the stairs,” Smith said. “It’s really important for folks to figure out how they’re going to escape from those upper levels if their primary stairway down is blocked. They could easily be trapped on the upper floors.”
Residents of taller buildings should look to porches where they could more easily receive assistance from personnel, or consider purchasing emergency fire ladders.
Fire Prevention Week was established in 1922 by President Woodrow Wilson and falls during the week of Oct. 9, to commemorate the most devastating day of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. This tragic fire left 250 dead and 100,000 homeless as it consumed 17,400 structures across 2,000 acres.