This editorial first appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:
Two recent fires remind us that a dangerous season has arrived. Luckily, in both Ketchikan cases, there was no loss of human life.
But no one wants to lose property, or a beloved pet, to a fire, either. The Ketchikan Fire Department asks us to remind you to check your smoke alarms and develop an escape plan in case of fire.
For most of us, buying and installing the smoke alarm gives us a sense of accomplishment, and we simply check it off our to-do list. However, installing the alarm is only the first step. When dealing with a smoke alarm, we can’t wait for the battery’s performance to deteriorate; the battery must be replaced before that happens. It’s best to replace the battery twice a year.
Many advise doing so when we change our clocks in the spring and fall. The important thing, though, is to get on a schedule that works for you — maybe on two memorable family birthdays, or on Christmas and July 4.
Also, smoke alarms don’t last forever; sometimes they need to be replaced.
As to an escape plan: Establish a plan to get people out of the house in various scenarios, where one route is blocked by smoke or fire. But then, especially if there are children involved, practice. It’s fun for them to climb out of windows and figure out that they are capable. It doesn’t have to be scary for them, any more than teaching them how to safely cross a street is scary. Being trapped by a fire without knowing how to get out is the scary thing.
Getting the plan and practicing it helps to figure out any kinks. Maybe you need a rope ladder for a given room. Show the child how to use it, and practice, practice, practice.
Part of the escape plan is what the family will do once out of the house. Set a meeting place on the driveway or someplace safe and away from the house where the family will automatically gather. That way, it’s immediately apparent that family members got out, and no one will be tempted to enter a burning building to search for them. If they didn’t, the family knows to notify firefighters that someone still is inside.
It’s not pleasant to consider the possibility of fire in our lives. So we should make sure our heating systems are in order; make sure nothing flammable is near any heat source; be careful with cooking and never leave the stove unattended; clean the lint out of our automatic dryers and generally, make sure all our equipment is in good working order. Have up-to-date fire extinguishers handy.
Then — just in case — keep those smoke alarms in good working order, and keep that escape plan viable. We hope we never have to use either; but if they’re needed, it’s better to have them than to wish we had.