I generally keep my blog and work lives separate, but this one is an exception.
The American Red Cross, my employer, launched a five-year effort to reduce the number of fire-related deaths and injuries, primarily by promoting the importance of working smoke alarms and emergency escape plans.
Why are these two elements so critical? Consider this: we asked Americans how much time you have to escape a burning building. More than half, 62 percent, answered 5 minutes. Another 18 percent responded 10 minutes.
In reality, you have as little as 2 minutes to get out of a burning house. Part of this is due to the speed at which a fire spreads; the other element is that 40 percent of fire deaths are from asphyxiation, due inhalation of smoke or burning chemicals.
A working smoke alarm alerts you to a fire. An escape plan — that your family has practiced — ensures you get out of the house as quickly as possible. The combination of the two can be life-saving.
Smoke alarms have a life of about 10 years. After that, replace them. Some of the newer models come with ten-year batteries, so you’re free of the yearly replacement (although you should test and vacuum them monthly).
Last year, 30 Mainers lost their lives in house fires, the deadliest year in decades. Most of the fatalities were young people, with lots of life ahead of them. According to our State Fire Marshall, all but two deaths could have been prevented.
Don’t become an “if only…” Check your smoke alarms. Replace the batteries or replace the alarms if they’re more than 10 years old (look for a birth date on the back). And create an escape plan. Include your kids in that process, and practice it a couple of times a year.
You may never experience a fire, but if you do, these simple steps can increase the odds of getting out alive.