National Fire Authority (NFA) is again reminding home owners to discuss home fire safety with their family members during their family meetings.
Fire Safety should be our agenda during family, village, church, community, vanua and other community based meetings.
So far this year, NFA has attended to eighteen home fires and majority of these home fires occurred because members of the community were not taking extra care.
NFA CEO John O’Connor is urging members of the community to take extra care and pay more attention to fire safety at homes.
The NFA CEO is urging all families in Fiji to discuss fire safety in their family meetings at home so that the family members will be more aware of the fire risks and fire safety measures at home.
“Discussing fire safety at home is one of the important fire risk mitigation strategies for home owners and their family and will prevent home fires.
All families must have a Home Fire Evacuation Plan and this must be discussed with all the family members so every member of the family is aware of what to do in case of a fire.
Home fire evacuation plan: Draw a floor plan of your home; mark two fire escape routes for each room.
High rise residential building: Home owners must consider escape ladders for sleeping areas on the second or third floor. Learn how to use them, and store them near the window. If main escape routes via stairs are blocked by smoke or fire, the windows may be your only alternative. Escape ladders permit quick exits, reducing time spent in smoke-filled, toxic environments while waiting for firefighters.
Burglar bars: Locks that block outside window entry must be easy to open from the inside. If a key is required to open bars or locks, keep a key near each window to use for fire escape. Quick-release devices are available for security bars. If smoke or fire is blocking the main exit, you must be able to use your alternate routes quickly. Fire deaths have occurred when people were trapped by security bars and were unable to get out and firefighters were unable to get in.
Home fire drill: Conduct a home fire drill with all members of your household. Practicing your plan makes the actual response more of an appropriate reaction, requiring less thinking during a fire situation.
Practice alerting the family members. Yell “Fire!” several times during your escape. In a real fire this will alert family members to get out.
Practice a crawl-low escape from your bedroom, as if you were crawling under a layer of smoke. Fires produce many toxic gases. Some are heavy and will sink low to the floor; others will rise, carrying soot towards the ceiling. Crawling with your head at a level of one to two feet above the ground will temporarily provide the best air. Close doors behind you.
Learn the emergency number for the NFA fire stations in your area. After leaving your home, you will need to call this number from an outside phone or from a neighbor’s house.
Teach family members to get out first, then call for help from a neighbor’s house or outside phone. Get out of the house, away from toxic smoke and gases. If a portable phone is handy during your escape, you may take it with you, but do not waste precious time looking for one. Use your neighbor’s phone, a car phone, or nearby pay phone to call for help.
Practice getting out of your home during the day and night. Fire can happen at any time. Practicing your routes at night will help you move more quickly should a fire strike in the dark.
Discuss fires with your family. Everyone should know what to do in case all family members are not together. Discussing disaster ahead of time helps reduce fear and lets everyone know how to respond during a fire.
What to Tell Children
Practice stop, drop, and roll. Know how to stop, drop, and roll in case your clothes catch on fire. Stop what you are doing, drop to the ground, cover your face, and roll back and forth until the flames go out. Running will only make the fire burn faster. Practicing makes the actual response more of an appropriate reaction, requiring less thinking time during an actual emergency situation. Children have a tendency to confuse this message with messages about escaping from a fire, so make sure that they understand that “stop, drop, and roll” is to be used only when clothing catches on fire. Once the flames are out, cool the burned skin with water for 10 to 15 minutes and get medical attention.
Matches and lighters are tools for “grown-ups.” These tools help adults use fire properly. Instruct children to tell an adult right away if they find them or see someone playing with fire, matches, or lighters.
If a fire starts in your home, yell to let people know the emergency is real, and they should get out. If you live in a building with elevators, use the stairs. Never try to hide from fire. Leave all your things where they are and save yourself.
- If your escape route is filled with smoke, use your second way out. It is very hard to find your way through thick, heavy smoke. Using your second way out will provide a safer alternative.
- Practice crawling low. If you must escape through smoke, crawl low, under the smoke, to escape. Fires produce many poisonous gases. Some are heavy and will sink low to the floor; others will rise, carrying soot towards the ceiling. Crawling with your head at a level of one to two feet above the ground will temporarily provide the best air. Close doors behind you.
- If you are escaping through a closed door, feel the door, cracks, and doorknob with the back of your hand before opening the door. If it is cool and there is no smoke at the bottom or top, open the door slowly. If you see smoke or fire beyond the door, close it and use your second way out. If the door is at all warm, use your second way out. It is a natural tendency to automatically use the door, but fire may be right outside. Feeling the door will warn you of possible danger. The back of your hand is more sensitive to heat than the palm or fingers.
- If smoke, heat, or flames block your exit routes and you cannot get outside safely, stay in the room with the door closed. Open the window for ventilation, and hang a sheet outside the window so firefighters can find you. If there is a phone in the room, call the fire department and tell them where you are. Seal around doors and vents with duct tape, towels, or sheets to help slow deadly smoke from entering the room. Wait by the window for help. The first thing firefighters will do when they arrive at a fire is check for trapped persons. Hanging a sheet out lets them know where to find you.
- Get out as safely and quickly as you can. The less time you are exposed to poisonous gases, heat, or flames, the safer you will be.
- Once you are outside, go to your meeting place and then send one person to call the fire department. Ask children if they know where their outside meeting place is. Tell them to go directly to this meeting place in case of a fire and stay there. Gathering in a specific outside location in front will quickly let you know who is outside, and allow you to advise firefighters of who may need help and their probable location inside.
- Once you are out, stay out. Children are often concerned about the safety of their pets, so discuss this issue before a fire starts. In many cases, pets are able to get out on their own. Many people are overcome by smoke and poisonous gases while trying to rescue others, pets, or possessions. No one should go into a burning or smoking building except a trained firefighter who has proper breathing apparatus and protective clothing.
Mr O’Connor added that NFA officers in the respective fire stations around the country will assist home owners to prepare this home fire escape plan with their families and they must contact the fire station in their area to seek further assistance on this fire safety planning for their family.