Fire Prevention Week: Plan, practice your escape

By Matt Ameden, DLA senior fire protection specialist 

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Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 6-12, is a reminder to review fire safety plans at home and work. This year’s theme, “Not every hero wears a cape,” highlights the small but important actions everyone can take to remain safe.  

According to the National Fire Protection Association, U.S. fire departments responded to 357,000 home fires in 2017. These fires resulted in 2,630 deaths and 10,600 injuries. On average, seven people died in a home fire each day from 2012 to 2016.  

“These numbers show that home fires continue to pose a significant threat to safety,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of outreach and advocacy. “In a typical home fire, you may have as little as one to two minutes to escape safely from the time the smoke alarm sounds. Escape planning and practice can help you make the most of the time you have, giving everyone enough time to get out.”

DLA safety representatives and fire wardens maintain fire evacuation plans and coordinate fire drills with local fire departments. Employees can improve their safety and survival by following these steps:

  • Know where your team’s evacuation map is. This map should be located near a main entrance to the facility or large room where people gather.
  • Find two ways out of every room. While sitting at your desk look for the exit signs above the doors. Find exits that lead directly outside. If you do not have direct access to the outside, follow exit signs anyway; they will lead you to an exterior exit.
  • Check windows to see if they open. Offices typically don’t have windows that open but some older facilities may. If your windows can be opened from the inside, make it your last way out. Doors are safer.
  • Know where your team’s designated meeting place is. Each office has a map showing a meeting place where employees should go during a fire or other emergency. Assembly at a predetermined spot ensures you are accounted for in the event of an emergency. 
  • Practice your drill with everyone in the office. Ensure everyone participates when the local fire prevention office conducts a drill. As new employees come onboard, make sure they know where to go and what to do in the event of a fire.

Many of these tips also apply to home fire safety. At a minimum, identify and practice two ways out of your home.    

For more information and tools to assist in developing fire safety plans, visit the NFPA’s website at www.NFPA.org and click on the public education tab.