Approximately 80 percent of all U.S. fire deaths occur in the home, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

That is why emergency fire plans are so crucial to have in place in the family dwelling before a fire outbreak, explains Lebanon Assistant Fire Chief Mike Baird.

“Not many people know how important it is to make a plan and practice it,” he said. “Because once there’s a fire, it’s too late to start planning for it then.”

Baird and the Lebanon Fire Department, along with others in the county like Zionsville Fire Department Public Educator Vincent Randolph, are looking to raise awareness for this little-known tool that can prevent tragedy in the event of a home fire.

What many don’t realize, Baird said, is that fire plans don’t have to be complicated.

“Generally, you want to make sure your kids understand how to get out of the house,” Baird explained. “Shut the door; isolate the fire if you can; don’t worry about your pets or your toys; and have a central meeting place somewhere on your property for accountability so that when the fire department shows up, you can say ‘we’re all out’ or ‘somebody is still inside.’

“But the main thing is – get outside and don’t go back in.”

Shutting the door of a room where a fire is located may be a surprising tip to some. Though the top priority is getting everyone out of the structure, shutting doors on the way out can contain a fire long enough for other occupants to escape. It also reduces the spread of smoke, which is the number one cause of death pertaining to home fires.

“A door being shut will contain a fire longer than a lot of people realize,” Baird added. “Basically, if you find a fire – shut the door. Open it and the fire will spread more quickly.”

According to the NFPA, most fire deaths are caused by smoke inhalation. In fact, smoke incapacitates so quickly that occupants are often overcome and cannot make it to an otherwise accessible exit.

Additionally, closed doors can prevent the spread of noxious fumes.

“The synthetic materials commonplace in today’s homes produce especially dangerous substances,” the website www.nfpa.org reads under its News and Research tab. “As a fire grows inside a building, it will often consume most of the available oxygen, slowing the burning process. This ‘incomplete combustion’ results in toxic gases.”

For this reason, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors have been deemed invaluable when it comes to family safety.

In part, the NFPA gives these tips regarding smoke alarms: Install smoke alarms inside and outside of every sleeping area; it is best to use interconnected alarms so that when one sounds, they all sound; test all smoke alarms at least once a month; place smoke alarms on the ceiling or high on a wall; keep smoke alarms away from the kitchen and at least 10 feet from the stove; and replace all smoke alarms when they reach 10 years old.

In addition to public educators and advocates like Baird and Randolph, who regularly host training classes for children and adults, the NFPA also offers a myriad of tools and resources that can prevent loss of life.

Included with the NFPA’s fire safety plans and guidelines, grids for fire escape plans are also available for download. Other tips included are to draw up a floor plan of the house in order to plan primary and alternate escape routes, and to educate children on how to properly dial 911 in the event of an emergency.

Those looking to learn more about fire safety and fire escape plans need look no further than their local fire departments. The Lebanon Fire Department often travels to local elementary schools to educate young people about fire safety, and the Zionsville Fire Department offers CPR and First-Aid classes, fire extinguisher training and even a program called Citizen’s Academy which provides live-fire training, fire hose operation, extrication training and more.

To download a fire-escape grid from the NFPA, visit the website at www.nfpa.org/Public-Education. Those interested in Zionsville’s Citizen’s Academy can download an application online at www.zionsville-in.gov/488/Citizens-Fire-Academy.

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