Fire officials stress steps to avoid tragedy during prevention week

Becky Campbell • Oct 9, 2012 at 10:10 PM

It took a national tragedy to establish Fire Prevention Week, but local fire officials hope it doesn’t take a personal tragedy to get area residents on board with this year’s slogan — Have Two Ways Out.

But it’s more than a slogan, said Johnson City Fire Marshal Lori Ratliff. It’s something that, if implemented in homes across the city, can save lives.

“Imagine a fire burning in your home, with your family fast asleep. Smoke and heat intensify quickly. Every second counts. How will everyone escape? Without a plan, you may not know the best route to safety,” Ratliff said in a press release.

Having two escape routes is the best chance of getting out of a burning structure safely because one route could be blocked by debris or intense heat, Ratliff said.

It’s also important to practice those ways out.

“Practice finding your way out of the house with your eyes closed,” Ratliff said. “Crawl or stay low to the ground and feel your way out.”

She said every family member or resident in a house or apartment should know two ways out and have an agreed meeting place outside.

“Decide on a meeting place outside your home and check to see if anyone is missing. Everyone must get out and stay out of the house or apartment,” she said.

And residents should always escape and get to safety before calling 911, she said. Everyone should also know the stop, drop and roll technique in case their clothes catch on fire.

“Never open doors that are hot and never go back inside a fire once you’ve escaped,” Ratliff said.

“One of the best ways to protect yourself and your family is to have dual sensor smoke alarm, which sounds for both a fire that has flames and a smoky fire that has fumes without flames,” Ratliff said.

President Woodrow Wilson issued the first National Fire Prevention Day proclamation in 1920 as a tribute to victims of the Great Chicago Fire that killed 250 people in 1871. That fire started on Oct. 8, 1871, and continued into Oct. 9, when the most damage was done.

Fire Prevention Week is always the week in which Oct. 9 falls, Ratliff said, and it’s the longest running public health and safety observance on record.

For more information about fire prevention and fire safety, or for assistance in checking fire and smoke detectors, call the Fire Marshal’s Office at 434-6184.

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