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Fire safety in the home is incredibly important. And when you become parents, it’s no longer about just you, there are innocent parties you need to make plans for, your children. The NBC hit show This is Us made my husband and I as first time parents of our little family come to the realization that while we have some idea and plans in the event of a fire in our household, we needed to do more to really prepare ourselves in the event of an emergency. As if Motherhood and Fatherhood weren’t more overwhelming, the potential for any disaster can either cause great anxiety and procrastination (due to fear and denial) or you can embrace this potential disaster as a chance to really embrace what you can control – preparedness – for the better.
Besides crying over the emotions in the song tied to this scene, it also made me think about different home appliances I had maybe “inherited” from family members since we purchased our home in 2009. The bread machine that had sat dormant in a basement for 10 years, the plug in electric insect lantern (“zapper”) with the slightly sketchy cords, the nice stand up vacuum that had been my great-grandmother’s with a lifetime warranty (brand I will not name) that ran great but did have a weird belt issue that had us retire it to the attic, even some inherited older surge protectors. I realized these are all risks. Maybe small ones, maybe not ones I will lose sleep over… but maybe things that if we went to Lowes or an outdoors/home goods shop I should consider replacing for good.
This scene gave me goosebumps. I grew up in a historic, old Folk Victorian-style farmhouse. From post-Civil War but it had 3 chimneys and 5 fireplaces/heat stoves (a couple had been walled in). The fireplaces could be finicky. We had 2 chimney fires that I can recall as a child in that farmhouse – keep your chimneys clean and have them inspected regularly! We lived 4.6 miles or 11 minutes from our main fire station – I think we were mostly lucky with both fires due to the fact that we had a standing seam metal roof. Anyway, it always made me aware of fires and fire risks. So when we purchased our house, the first thing we did was replace all of the batteries in our smoke/carbon monoxide detectors, and we also bought backup plug in monoxide detectors (pictured below). Also buy a huge package of batteries and either set an alarm on your cell phone or calendar alert OR have Alexa/etc remind you to replace the batteries every SIX months.
In our home each bedroom has a fire escape ladder, fire extinguisher and a fire blanket. We have a fireproof waterproof safe with our documents inside in a fireproof document bag. We have 2 fire extinguishers in our lower level (one by our fireplace as we enjoy using candles – responsibly!) and one in the kitchen. Another fire blanket is in the kitchen if something comes up. Unplug counter appliances before going to bed for the night. Another kitchen tip is to have some oversized pot lids you can use to smother fires if needed. Ironically, though we live in a more rural location (Goochland) than where I grew up (Rockbridge), we have a brand-new state-of-the-art fire department only 2 miles or 4 minutes away (they existed previously for a long time but didn’t have the facilities they deserved until now)! That said, we never want to be unprepared. The ladder goes over the window sill and helps people safely escape from that room. The fire blankets can put out a fire quickly if it isn’t too big, otherwise the fire extinguisher can help if used properly. Other tips you can see that they used in This Is Us – while it can make the air in your room stuffy (which is why a floor stand fan or ceiling fan in a bedroom is highly recommended) sleeping with your bedroom door closed can literally save your life and prevent excessive smoke inhalation. Having doors to bedrooms closed overnight can give you precious minutes of safety.
Safe fire extinguisher use – learn the phrase PASS:
- Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you, and release the locking mechanism.
- Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
- Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
- Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.
Do you have a wood burning fireplace or a gas propane fireplace? A wood burning fireplace means you should keep yourself awake late enough when burning a wood fire to properly put out the fire. Keeping a METAL bucket full of sand and a small spray bottle of water by your fireplace can save your entire family’s life to properly put out the embers and COOL THE ASHES. Yes, I am saying that you should dirty up your in-home wood burning fireplace by treating it like a campfire. Smokey the Bear knows his stuff. That’s why you have a shovel in your fireplace set right? To dispose of your ashes! Wouldn’t it be better to have a messy COOLED fireplace that you clean up the next day or so instead of waking up to the lower level of your home, or worse, the main door to the outside of your house on fire because you dumped embers in a plastic bucket next to your front door before heading up to bed? Get a metal bucket.
Another tip: CLEAN your clothes dryer vent/filter between each laundry load. It adds a couple minutes but prevents build-up in the vent/pipe (the outside end you should clean as well, and keep it from being blocked by landscaping… our holly bush is a little bit one-sided but its on the house side so no one knows!). Maybe if you buy a home you could even be more fire aware and replace the metal duct when you move in so you know it isn’t full of sneaky pockets of fire-friendly lint!
- 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.
STOP DROP ROLL
Learn more fire safety from the Red Cross here. Learn more fire safety from the National Fire Protection Association (“NFPA”) here. I know this post wasn’t typical for me, but I hope you appreciated it! Here’s a link with all of the items featured shoppable from Amazon.com. Do you have any safety tips – whether for fires or in general, to share?
This is Us inspired post on home fire safety