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3 Things You And Your Kids Can Do To Survive A Fire

Ada Be
Flkr Creative Commons

A recent deadly house fire in Centralia, which killed three children of a Washington lobbyist, had a lot of us thinking about our own families and homes and wondering if we are doing everything we can to prevent a similar tragedy. I called up Washington's Deputy Fire Marshal Lysandra Davis for some fire safety advice.

Here are her top three recommendations for surviving a fire in the home:

1) Have a working smoke alarm and test it every month.

Surprisingly, or maybe not, a lot of people either don't have alarms or disable them because they get annoyed when the alarm goes off while they're cooking. But, next time you see the alarm as a nuisance, Davis says you should keep in mind that "most fire deaths can be prevented by a properly installed and maintained fire protection device." According to the National Fire Protection Association, three out of five fire deaths result from fires in properties without working smoke alarms.

One problem, even with working smoke detectors, is that children often sleep right through them. There are a couple of solutions, including buying detectors that flash strobe lights or shake the bed. There are also smoke alarms that use a parent's voice, as research shows kids are more likely to wake to Mom's voice telling them to get up than a buzzing alarm.

2) Have an exit plan and practice it with your kids.

Davis says you should practice what to do in case of a fire, until it is second nature for everyone. Children should be taught to identify two exits in every room, usually the door and a window, and to practice feeling the door for heat to find out whether the fire is on the other side. She says drawing a map, with exits, can be useful for young children. Also, have a gathering spot where you will all go once you escape.

3) You have two minutes or less, so don't try and take anything with you.

Two minutes is just enough time to throw clothes and shoes on and get the heck out, according to Davis. She says trying to grab that family album or heirloom could be deadly. And, it's interesting to note that two minutes is a lot less time than people had a few decades ago. Davis says the reason is that most homes now have a lot more flammable composite materials in everything from clothing to furniture.

Here are some useful links regarding fire safety, fire prevention, and fire statistics:

Safety messages about smoke alarms and designing escape plans

Smoke alarm tip sheet

Washington 2014 Fire Fatality Report

Deputy Fire Marshal Lysandra Davis says the 2015 Fatality Report will be issued in the next few weeks. She says there were 52 fire fatalities, up slightly from 2014. Seven of the deaths were children. So far in 2016, there have been 21 fire fatalities.

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.
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