A home fire can quickly become a devastating tragedy. Last week's deadly fire in New York City is a heart-wrenching reminder of how important it is to have an escape plan.
The death toll climbed to 10 over the weekend when a ninth child perished.
President of the Home Safety Council Meri-K Appy offered some important tips about how to develop a fire escape plan for the entire family. She told The Saturday Early Show co-anchor Tracy Smith that a plan and a working smoke detector are the most important weapons you have against a fire.
About 90 percent of fire fatalities are from home fires and 70 percent of deaths are in homes with no working alarms.
Smoke alarms: The Home Safety Council recommends installing smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement. Make sure there is an alarm near every sleeping area. Test your smoke alarms at least once a month. Install fresh batteries at least once a year. Smoke alarms should be replaced at least once every 10 years. Use interconnected smoke alarms, which are tied in together so that if one alarm operates, they all signal together, giving you more time to escape a fire. Be prepared for a family member to wake children for fire drills and in a real emergency.
Fire escape planning: Sketch out a floor plan of your home, including all rooms, windows, interior and exterior doors, stairways, fire escapes and smoke alarms. Make sure that every family member is familiar with the layout. Select two escape routes from each room and mark them clearly on the plan. Make sure windows and doorways open easily and that stair and doorways are never blocked. Find two ways out of every room like the door and a window. You might need an escape ladder to get out of upstairs bedroom windows. Have a place to meet in front of your home. Use a mobile phone or a neighbor's phone to call 911. Hold family fire drills frequently and at various times until the escape plans become second nature. After the process is mastered, hold a drill when family members are sleeping.
Fire extinguisher: In many cases, the safest response is to evacuate the home and call the fire department. Children should never be encouraged or taught to fight a home fire. Adults should be trained before using a fire extinguisher. Your local fire department can help you find training.
Home fire sprinklers: Home fire sprinklers can contain and even extinguish a fire faster than most fire departments can arrive. Only the sprinkler closest to the fire will activate spraying water directly on the fire. Ninety percent of fires are contained by just one sprinkler. On average, home fire sprinkler systems add 1 percent to 1.5 percent of the total building cost in new construction. Sprinklers use only a fraction of the water used by fire department hoses.