Many people think fire is something that happens to other people. Unfortunately, this common misperception continues to put Americans at risk to fire each year, particularly at home, where people think they’re safest from fire but are actually at the greatest risk. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a home structure fire was reported every 86 seconds in 2015, with about 80% of all U.S. fire deaths annually occurring at home.

In fact, today’s home fires present increased risks to occupants. Newer homes are built with lightweight materials that burn faster than older home constructions. They also tend to be designed with open floor plans that enable fire to spread rapidly. Meanwhile, many of the products and furnishings in today’s homes are produced with materials that generate dark, toxic gases when burned, making it impossible to breathe or see within moments. In short, home fires present a real risk that residents need to take seriously.

One of the most basic but vital elements of home fire safety is having a home escape plan that everyone in the household has practiced. In a fire situation, when the smoke alarm sounds, a practiced home escape plan ensures that everyone knows how to use the precious minutes wisely.

This year’s Fire Prevention Week theme, “Every Second Counts: Plan 2 Ways Out!” works to better educate the public about the critical importance of developing a home escape plan and practicing it. The Westby-Christiana Fire Department is working in coordination with NFPA, the official sponsor of the Fire Prevention Week for more than 90 years, to reinforce those potentially life-saving messages. Fire Prevention Week is October 8-14, 2017.

As the Captain of Westby-Christiana Fire Department, I urge all our residents to use this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign as a reminder to develop a home escape plan with everyone in the household and practice it twice a year. 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.

Thank you for publishing this letter to help increase safety from fire. For more details about this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign, “Every Second Counts: Plan 2 Ways Out!” and home escape planning, visit www.firepreventionweek.org.

Spencer Lee, Captain

Westby-Christiana Fire Department

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