Research shows occupants may have less than two minutes to escape safely from the time the smoke alarm sounds because today’s home fires burn faster than ever, making escape planning all the more critical to home fire safety. Studies show that in the past, people had approximately 17 minutes to escape a typical home fire from the time the smoke alarm sounds. Now they may have as little as two minutes to get out safely.
With these concerns in mind, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) announced “Not Every Hero Wears a Cape. Plan and Practice Your Escape™!” as the theme for this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign, October 6-12, 2019. Working to better educate the public about the importance of home escape planning and practice, the theme recognizes the potentially heroic impact of everyday people who put these messages into action.
“Home escape planning and practice may seem so basic that it’s not even necessary, but in reality, these efforts can have tremendous impact,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of Outreach and Advocacy. “We’ve seen time and again that advance planning can make a potentially life-saving difference in a fire situation.”
NFPA statistics show that the number of reported U.S. home fires in 2018 is half that reported in 1980. However, the death rate per 1000 reported fires has remained fairly steady, reflecting the continued challenges of safely escaping today’s home fires.
While home is the place people are at greatest risk to fire – approximately 80 percent of all U.S. fire deaths occur in homes – people tend to underestimate their risk. That over-confidence lends itself to a complacency toward home escape planning and practice.
“Most people don’t recognize the true value of home escape planning until they’ve experienced a home fire, and by then it’s too late to start developing a plan,” said Carli. “The people who take the time to prepare in advance really are heroes – their actions can help make their families much safer from fire.”
A home escape plan includes working smoke alarms on every level of the home, in every bedroom and near all sleeping areas. It also includes two ways out of every room, usually a door and a window, with a clear path to an outside meeting place (like a tree, light pole or mailbox) that’s a safe distance from the home. Home escape plans should be practiced twice a year by all members of the household.
Each year, fire departments throughout the U.S. implement Fire Prevention Week and its messages in their communities. For more information about this year’s campaign, “Not Every Hero Wears a Cape. Plan and Practice Your Escape!,” visit fpw.org.
NFPA has been the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week since 1922. According to the National Archives and Records Administration’s Library Information Center, Fire Prevention Week is the longest running public health and safety observance on record. The President of the United States has signed a proclamation declaring a national observance during that week every year since 1925. Visit www.firepreventionweek.org for more safety information.