Read to the bottom of this editorial in two minutes or less.
That’s not much time, but it will give you a sense of the narrow window that you and family members might have to escape your house in the event of a fire. A scant 120 seconds.
Could you get out safely? Could others?
Do you have an agreed-upon, and practiced, plan for swiftly exiting the building and meeting up at a spot out of harm’s way?
Promoters of National Fire Prevention Week, an awareness-raising campaign conducted each October, want you to drop any misconceptions about house fires (some people mistakenly believe they might have five to 10 minutes to evacuate) and take basic but potentially life-saving precautions. Ensure smoke detectors are installed in each bedroom and in other areas of the home. Test those devices monthly. Develop a fire escape plan. Go through the drill until everyone, including children, can complete the exercise in two minutes. Repeat the drill a few times each year, at various hours of the day and night.
These messages should resonate with people in Northeastern Pennsylvania, where many communities contain an old housing stock of tightly clustered buildings. Our rural areas often are protected by all-volunteer fire crews, some of which struggle with staffing.
The American Red Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania last year responded to 186 disasters, mostly home fires, according to its tally. Its leaders don’t want to dispatch a crew to your address, so they are helping this week to tout information about fire prevention. When cooking food, for example, don’t leave the stovetop or oven unattended. If the power fails, opt for flashlights rather than candles.
The strategies for preventing a house fire, or surviving one if it does break out, are not especially complicated or demanding. For most families, the only barrier to becoming far better prepared is this: Will you make the time?