More advice to prevent, prepare for fires at home

It’s been a bad year in Michigan for fatal house fires, enough that state officials have again advised that residents take steps to guard against such blazes and have a plan should one erupt in the home.

To date, 86 people have lost their lives this year in 9,372 residential structure fires across the state. In October alone, home fires in Michigan claimed the lives of seven children and 10 adults.

In response to these tragedies, State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer urges Michiganders to spend time this weekend developing and practicing a fire escape plan with their families.

The Bureau of Fire Services has created a document for Michiganders to review, download, and print to help them develop their home fire escape plan. Once the plan is established, it is important families practice it often since, on average, they will have less than three minutes to escape due to the toxic gasses, smoke and lack of oxygen.

“It is tragic and devastating when we lose even one person to a fire,” said Orlene Hawks, director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, where BFS is housed. “These are our kids, our aunts, our uncles, our parents, our friends. We all need to realize that this can happen to us. If you see smoke, don’t investigate — don’t even fight the fire — just escape.”

“It is so important to teach kids what to do if a fire occurs,” Sehlmeyer said. “The last thing we want is for children to hide, thinking that will keep them safe. It is vitally important that we teach our families what to do if the smoke alarms go off and practice how to escape if there is a fire in your home. A family fire escape plan is essential.”

Working smoke alarms provide an early warning of a fire. There needs to be a smoke alarm on every level of every home, including the basement and a smoke alarm in every bedroom or sleeping area. Michiganders are reminded to change the batteries annually if they have 9-volt smoke alarms.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, 71 percent of smoke alarm failures are a result of missing, disconnected or dead batteries. Never remove or disconnect batteries from alarms unless you are putting a new battery in the smoke alarm.

Check every smoke alarm monthly to ensure they are working. If you hear a chirp noise coming from a smoke alarm, it is most likely a warning of a low battery. Three of every five residential fire deaths in the United States occur in homes where smoke alarms have the batteries removed, the batteries are dead or no smoke alarms were present.

Sehlmeyer also recommends:

— Test smoke alarms monthly using the test button.

— Replace batteries annually or when the smoke alarm begins to chirp, signaling that the battery is running low.

— Make sure every bedroom or sleeping area has a smoke alarm and has one smoke alarm on every level of your home, including the basement.

— For added protection, consider a connected smoke alarm system, so when one smoke alarm sounds all the smoke alarms sound in the whole home.

— Hardwired smoke alarms are more reliable than those powered solely by batteries.

— Newer smoke alarms come with lithium batteries that can last up to ten years.

— Every 10 years replace all your smoke alarms, or sooner if they do not respond properly when tested.

For more fire safety information and safety tips, go to the MI Prevention website at MiPrevention.org or the NFPA website at https://www.nfpa.org/smokealarms.


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