Smoke alarm

Smoke alarms should be tested regularly, and batteries replaced once a year depending on the model.

As the chill of fall forces many into their homes for longer periods of time, the risk of home fires should not be ignored.

Though advancements in home construction and fire prevention and safety practices have greatly improved and reduced the risk of tragedy, seven people die each day in home fires in the United States, according to the American Red Cross. In addition, home fires injure 36 people every day and cause more than $7 billion in property damage.

Organizations like the Red Cross have focused on reducing these numbers with special education programs and through programs that provide smoke alarm installation. The Red Cross estimates that its Home Fire Campaign has saved at least 638 lives across the country since its launch in 2014.

Reducing the risk of home fires also is one of the goals of the Litchfield Fire Department’s open house, which is planned for 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday at the fire hall. Among the activities and handouts will be a kitchen fire demonstration.

Reducing the risk of a home fire tragedy can start with some basic ideas and preparation. The American Red Cross encourages people to:

  • Talk with your family about a fire escape plan and practice the plan twice a year.
  • Include at least two ways to get out of each room in your home fire escape plan.
  • Select a meeting spot a safe distance away from your home, such as a neighbor’s home or landmark like a specific tree in your front yard where everyone can meet.
  • Practice your escape plan until everyone can get out in two minutes or less.
  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, place them inside and outside bedrooms and sleeping areas.
  • Teach children what smoke alarms sound like and what to do when they hear one.
  • Test smoke alarms monthly and change the batteries at least once a year if the model requires it.

In addition, there are precautions that can prevent the risk of fire in the first place, including:

  • Keep items that can catch on fire at least three feet away from anything that gets hot, such as space heaters.
  • Smoking materials are the leading cause of residential fire deaths in the country. If you smoke, smoke outside, choose fire-safe cigarettes, never smoke in bed or when drowsy or medicated, or if anyone in the home uses oxygen.
  • Talk to children about the dangers of fire, matches and lights, and keep those items out of their reach.
  • Turn portable heaters off when you leave the room or go to sleep.
  • Never leave a burning candle unattended, even for a minute.

Additional fire safety ideas, including home escape plan sheets and other material, can be found at www. redcross.org/homefires.

Awareness and some simple preparation can help ensure that heading inside to a cozy home on a chilly autumn day is the safe experience we all desire.

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