In the event of a fire, it is important to get out of the house, fast! Unfortunately, it has been an especially tragic year in New York State according to data from the US Fire Administration. As of October 2, 2019, there have been 87 civilian fire deaths in New York State so far this year – a figure which leads the nation.

Across the United States, home fires claim seven lives a day – most often in homes without working smoke alarms. But there are two simple steps you can take right now to help keep your household safe in an emergency: Test your smoke alarms every month and practice your home fire escape plan at least twice a year.

All About Smoke Alarms

Smoke alarms that are properly installed at key areas in your home play a vital role in reducing fire-related deaths and injuries. In fact, fire experts agree that people may have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home, and working smoke alarms are your first warning to protect you and your loved ones from the dangers of a fire.

This year, a new law related to smoke alarms took effect in New York State. As of April 1, 2019, all new or replacement smoke alarms sold in New York must be either powered by a 10-year, sealed, non-removable battery, or hardwired to the home. For more information, click here or here. A benefit to this law is that the required alarms are safer for your home. They do not require battery changes during their lifespan, and they are nearly impossible to disable.

Once you have working smoke alarms in your home, here’s what we recommend:

  • Test your smoke alarms once a month. Change the batteries at least once a year, if your model requires it.
  • Place smoke alarms on every level of your home, including inside and outside bedrooms and sleeping areas.
  • Teach children what the smoke alarm sounds like when you practice your home fire escape plan. Take time to discuss fire safety and what to do during an emergency.

Remember to Include Everyone in Your Escape Plan

According to Safe Kids World Wide, upwards of 75% of U.S. homes do not have a fire escape plan that they practice regularly. Creating a fire escape plan and practicing it with your family is critical to protecting you and your loved ones in a fire emergency. Kids as young as age three can typically follow a fire escape plan, according to FEMA. Every child is different, so base your plans on your child’s individual abilities. 

When it comes to fire escape planning, the Red Cross recommends:

  • Escape plans should include at least two ways to escape from every room in your home.
  • Select a meeting spot at a safe distance away from your home, such as your neighbor’s home or a landmark like a specific tree in your front yard, where everyone knows to meet.
  • Take time to discuss the plan with everyone in your household, and practice it at least twice a year.

Each person in your family should be involved in creating your escape plan. For example, people with disabilities can provide unique input on the best methods for them to escape.

Consider exploring a few of these links to learn more about home fire safety for children with special needs and fire prevention tips and resources for people with disabilities.

You can also download home fire safety checklists and fact sheets from the American Red Cross.

Even though Fire Prevention Week and Month only happens once a year, it’s important to remember that every day is an opportunity to keep your home safe. Stay tuned for more from our #FireSafetySeries, and let us know what steps you’re taking to prepare!