Every year, American families are devasted by residential fires. As you
set your clocks back one hour this weekend, please take a minute to do two
simple things that can potentially save lives: change the batteries in the
smoke detectors in your home and check to make sure that they are in good
working order. If you don’t have smoke detectors, please go out and
purchase them. They are a cost effective way to keep your family safe.
A majority of American homes have at least one smoke detector, but in 20 percent of those homes the smoke detectors don’t work, according to data collected by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Smoke detectors are a simple tool, but they are only effective when they work.
When you examine deaths that occur in homes due to fire, the statistics are sobering. According to the NFPA, in 38 percent of home fire deaths, there was no smoke detector; another 24 percent of fire deaths occurred in homes where smoke detectors were not working.
In addition to replacing smoke alarm batteries annually, it’s worthwhile to test your alarm monthly by using the test button. Experts also recommend installing a smoke detector on every level of your home; if you can install interconnected smoke alarms – so that when one goes off, the others sound as well – that will keep your family even safer.
Finally, make sure everyone in your home understands the warning sound of the smoke detector and knows what do if it sounds. That means you should prepare AND practice an escape plan from your home. Make sure to try to identify two exit points from each room – this can include a window. Practicing your plan is vital because you are more likely to remember what to do during an emergency. And be sure to designate a meeting place for your family in a spot that is a safe distance from the fire and where first responders can see you.
Keeping communities and our country safe begins at home; by practicing good fire safety, we can keep our homes, and families, better protected.
If you need more information about smoke detectors, visit http://www.cookcountyhomelandsecurity.org/useful-info/.
Michael Masters is the executive director of the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM). Under the leadership of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, DHSEM integrates first responders, their departments and resources from 134 Cook County municipalities, and serves as the central agency in Cook County for coordinating efforts to prevent, protect against, mitigate the effects of, respond to, and recover from all incidents, whether man-made or natural. For more information, visit our website at www.cookcountyhomelandsecurity.org.