Fire Prevention Week theme: ‘Fire won’t wait, plan your escape’

Fire safety messages continue to evolve. Throughout the years, kids have been taught to “Stop, drop and roll” to extinguish burning clothes. Now, the intensity and speed of fires in modern homes places the emphasis on recognizing the sound of smoke alarms and knowing how to get out quickly.

“The theme of this year’s Fire Prevention Week is: ‘Fire won’t wait, plan your escape,’” said Mitchell Kannry, D.C.’s Fire Marshal.

“That’s all about making sure your family has a plan at home, an idea of how to get out of the house, the best way to get out, having a meeting point, having a way to practice those plans. We want everybody to drill a few times a year, and just make sure you’re familiar so that when an emergency does hit, everybody knows how to get out and get out safely,” he said.

People might have as little as two minutes to safely escape a house fire; closing doors to bedrooms can buy them some time or provide a place of refuge.

“Modern furnishings burn a lot hotter and faster than they did just a few decades ago. That’s why the campaign of ‘Close Your Door’ is so important because a fire that might start somewhere outside of your bedroom, if your door is closed, that gives you enough time to try to get out and try to make an escape. And we’ve seen a lot of instances throughout the years where there’s been a very large significant fire somewhere in the home, and the bedrooms are able to maintain a livable space, relatively intact, with minimal damage just by keeping that door closed. It’s so important,” Kannry said.

Every family member should know two or three ways to get out of the house.

“Sometimes, the hallway you might use might be blocked by smoke or by fire. You might have to get out through a window or find some other alternative means. We always want people to take into account the worst-case scenario when you’re making these plans. So that way, if something does unfortunately happen, you’ll be prepared, you’ll know what to do,” Kannry said.

Having a designated meeting place outside the home is necessary to identify whether anyone might still be inside and in need of rescue.

“Once you get out of that house, do not go back in the house. The fire departments in the area are extremely quick. We know what we’re doing. We get there; we can go right to where somebody’s trapped and make those rescues,” he said.

Kannry said there’s high probability that people returning to burning homes won’t make it back out, which puts firefighters in the position of having to make multiple rescues versus just one.

“If you’re able to get out, stay out. Let us know any information you can about where people might be trapped, where pets might be, and we will go in and do the job that we’re trained to do to get those people and those pets out,” Kannry said.

Fires most frequently happen in the kitchen.

To avoid kitchen fires, don’t leave food on the stove or in the oven unattended. Don’t cook wearing loose clothing or anything that can easily ignite, and leave cooking to someone else if you’re tired or on medication.

Grease fires can be especially dangerous.

“We never want to put water on a grease fire. You want either to try to put the lid on it or if you have a fire extinguisher, (use that.) Really just try to keep best practices in the kitchen to make sure everybody stays safe,” Kannry said.

Modern smoke alarms come with 10-year batteries that never have to be changed in sealed compartments. The recommendation, as previously, is to check them twice a year. When the smoke alarm battery is out of juice, throw it away and get a new one.

“There’s a lot of donations that are available out there. So in case anybody needs one and can’t get either a smoke alarm or a similar device, we can we can find a way to get one for you,” Kannry said.

Smoke alarms and fire safety visits are available from fire departments regionwide.

We can come out free of charge and make sure everybody’s safe in their houses,” Kannry said.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up