By Col. La'Tonya Lynn; Director, Directorate of Emergency Services; U.S. Army Garrison, HawaiiJuly 23, 2012
WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii -- In light of the recent damage caused by extensive wild fires in the state of Colorado, I would like to provide some recommendations to mitigate the dangers of house fires.
Following these guidelines will help ensure your family is prepared for a residential fire.
First, a fire evacuation plan must be prepared. Your family needs to know where to meet, how to exit the home, and what to do if someone becomes stuck in a room. In a matter of minutes, a small fire can turn into a blazing inferno, so every second counts.
Once you have prepared a fire evacuation plan, remember that the plan must be rehearsed.
A rehearsal should be conducted twice a year. Everyone who lives in the house must be present.
The U.S. Fire Administration recommends drawing a map, purchasing collapsible escape ladders if your home is higher than floor-level, teaching your children to escape on their own in case you cannot help them, having a plan for anyone who is disabled, and practicing your escape plan both during the day and at night.
Remember to crawl if there is a lot of smoke, and keep your mouth covered to protect yourself from toxic gases. Feel doors to ensure they are not hot to the touch. If is the door is hot, use a secondary exit. If the door is cool, open it slowly.
Once you are outside, meet your family at a designated meeting point and account for everyone. Never go back into a burning building -- for any reason, and ensure your children know not to hide from firefighters.
The U.S. Fire Administration also asks that you conduct a safety walk-through of your home regularly. Make sure that cloths, blankets, curtains, towels and other items that could easily catch fire are at least three feet away from a source of heat.
Other fire prevention recommendations include these:
•Never leave a cooking area unattended;
•Ensure your stove and small appliances are off before you go to bed;
•Check for worn wires;
•Never run cords under rugs or furniture;
•Do not overload electrical sockets;
•Keep lighters and matches out of the reach of children;
•Do not smoke in bed;
•Make sure cigarettes are put out completely; and
•Ensure smoke detectors are tested and operational.