You need to have two ways out of your home.
That is the message of this year’s National Fire Prevention Week. It will wrap up this weekend with events throughout West Virginia and across the United States focused on home escape plans.
"The time to plan for the emergency is not during the emergency," says Deputy State Fire Marshal Carol Nolte.
"This is why you do a home inspection, a walk through, an escape planning session with your family and walk that walk and check every door and window."
Every year, West Virginia is near the top of the list for fire deaths. Last year, 64 people died in 50 fires in the Mountain State. There have been nine fire deaths since July first.
"A lot of that is demographics," Nolte says.
She says West Virginia has the highest populations of people with disabilities, older adults and smokers while being the second most rural state in the country.
Those factors are only complicated more by the recruitment and retention issues some state fire departments are dealing with every day.
Nolte says many fires can be prevented. "It’s human behavior. It’s bad judgment," she said.
"It can be so easily overcome with just some basic fire safety mindsets, the ways you could look through your house and remove fire hazards and make sure your family has that plan and protect yourselves and others."
Those with the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office and the National Fire Protection Association offer the following tips for protecting your home and family from fire:
• Make a home escape plan. Draw a map of your home showing all doors and windows. Discuss the plan with everyone in your home.
• Know at least two ways out of every room, if possible. Make sure all doors and windows leading outside open easily.
• Have an outside meeting place (like a tree, light pole or mailbox) a safe distance from the home where everyone should meet.
• Practice your home fire drill at night and during the day with everyone in your home, twice a year.
• Practice using different ways out.
• Teach children how to escape on their own in case you can’t help them.
• Close doors behind you as you leave.
• Install smoke alarms inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home (including the basement).
• Interconnect all smoke alarms in the home so when one sounds, they all sound.
• Test smoke alarms at least monthly and replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old or sooner if they do not respond when tested.
• If the smoke alarm sounds, get out and stay out. Never go back inside for people or pets.
• If you have to escape through smoke, get low and go under the smoke to your way out.
• Call the fire department from outside your home.
You can find out more about National Fire Prevention Week at www.firepreventionweek.org.