Furious flames

FORT RUCKER, Ala. - It was the end of a long Friday evening out with some friends. After a night of partying, my normal routine was to come home and cook something before hitting the sack. This night was no different, and after putting some food on the stove, I decided to lie down for a minute until it was done cooking.

The next thing I remember is waking up in a smoke-filled room to the sound of wailing sirens and someone banging on my door. As I stumbled to the door, I noticed a burning pot on the kitchen stove. Suddenly, a firefighter rushed through the door and quickly extinguished the flames.

How could I have forgotten I had food on the stove? And what happened to the smoke alarm? Well, the smoke alarm activated; however, because of the amount of alcohol I drank, I slept through it. Thankfully, a neighbor notified the fire department.

A majority of fatal home fires happen at night when people are asleep. Contrary to popular belief, the smell of smoke may not wake a sleeping person. In fact, the poisonous gases and smoke produced by a fire can numb the senses and put you into a deeper sleep.

Inexpensive household smoke alarms issue an audible signal, alerting you to a fire. The sound of the alarm gives you time to escape and cuts your risk of dying in a home fire nearly in half. They save so many lives that most states have laws requiring them in private homes.

The National Fire Protection Association reports that almost two-thirds of home fire deaths from 2005-2009 resulted from fires in homes with either no or a nonworking smoke alarm.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol use and the resulting impairment may be the strongest independent factor for death from fire. One study found that intoxication contributed to an estimated 40 percent of deaths due to residential fires. By altering one's cognitive, physiological and motor functions, alcohol increases the chance of starting a serious fire while, at the same time, reduces the chance of survival from a fire or burn injury.

The best ending to a night of partying may be to ensure you have something prepared that doesn't require cooking, or have food on hand that can be heated in a microwave. Personally, I'd rather wake up and nurse a hangover than a burn injury.

Smoke Alarm Safety

According to the NFPA, smoke alarms are an important part of a home fire escape plan. When there is a fire, smoke spreads fast. Working smoke alarms give you an early warning so you can get outside quickly. Here are some tips from the NFPA that may just save your life:

•Install smoke alarms inside every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement.

•Larger homes may need additional smoke alarms to provide enough protection.

•For the best protection, interconnect all smoke alarms so when one sounds, they all sound.

•An ionization smoke alarm is generally more responsive to flaming fires, and a photoelectric smoke alarm is generally more responsive to smoldering fires. For the best protection, both types of alarms or combination ionization and photoelectric alarms (also known as dual-sensor alarms) are recommended.

•Smoke alarms should be installed away from the kitchen to prevent false alarms. Generally, they should be at least 10 feet from a cooking appliance.

•Replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old.

•Smoke alarms should be tested at least once a month and batteries replaced at least once a year.

Visit the NFPA website at www.nfpa.org/education for more information on how to keep you and your loved ones protected against fires.

Page last updated Tue February 26th, 2013 at 10:16