Did you know that in a home fire you have only three to four minutes to escape?  Thirty years ago, inhabitants had 17 minutes with which to escape a home fire.  Why the decrease? Why do newly constructed homes pose such an increased risk to inhabitants when a home fire strikes?

The reason? Synthetic materials used to build new homes and new furniture burn faster and hotter than natural materials, like the ones found in older homes.

Materials such as those found in German Village homes, both brick and frame, have a slower burn rate. Old growth wood, brick, and stone provide a critical reduction in burn rate, allowing inhabitants precious minutes with which to escape should a catastrophic fire ignite.

No matter the construction date or construction materials, immediate evacuation is crucial for one’s personal safety in all home fires. By no means should anyone think that they can delay evacuation simply because they live in an older brick or old growth wood frame home.

Here are some tips to assist residents in preparing themselves should a home fire occur:

Escape Plan

  • Twice each year, practice your home fire escape plan.
  • Find two ways to get out of each room in the event the primary way is blocked by fire or smoke.
  • A secondary route might be a window onto a neighboring roof or a collapsible ladder for escape from upper story windows.
  • Make sure that windows are not stuck, screens can be taken out quickly, and that security bars can be properly opened.
  • Practice feeling your way out of the house in the dark or with your eyes closed.
  • Teach children not to hide from firefighters.

Smoke Alarms

  • A working smoke alarm significantly increases your chances of surviving a deadly home fire.
  • Install both ionization AND photoelectric smoke alarms, OR dual sensor smoke alarms, which contain both ionization and photoelectric smoke sensors.
  • Test batteries monthly.
  • Replace batteries in battery-powered and hard-wired smoke alarms at least once a year (except non-replaceable 10-year lithium batteries).
  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement, both inside and outside of sleeping areas.
  • Replace the entire smoke alarm unit every 8-10 years or according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Never disable a smoke alarm while cooking – it can be a deadly mistake.

Smoke Alarm Safety for People with Access or Functional Needs

  • Audible alarms for visually impaired people should pause with a small window of silence between each successive cycle so that they can listen to instructions or voices of others.
  • Smoke alarms with a vibrating pad or flashing light are available for the hearing impaired. Contact your local fire department for information about obtaining a flashing or vibrating smoke alarm.
  • Smoke alarms with a strobe light outside the home to catch the attention of neighbors, and emergency call systems for summoning help, are also available.

More Fire Safety Tips

  • Make digital copies of valuable documents and records like birth certificates.
  • Sleep with your door closed.
  • Contact your local fire department for information on training on the proper use and maintenance of fire extinguishers.
  • Consider installing an automatic fire sprinkler system in your residence.

-Nancy Kotting