Thursday, October 15, 2009

Are You Prepared? Keep Your Family Safe!

This past Saturday night at about midnight, the file alarm went off in our apartment building. Being a fairly new building, the alarm system here is top notch. We instantly knew it was a fire alarm, but living in houses our whole life, we both had the feeling that the whole thing was false. Why is this? In an apartment fire, chances are you can't see fire or smoke immediately. This is different from a house fire where you know instantly. So, we did some things wrong! (e.g. no coats or shoes)

On a side note, after the fire department cleared the building, Kacey worked to get Nolan back to sleep. Unfortunately, about 60 seconds after he fell asleep, the alarm went off again!

So the next morning, I realized we definitely failed the fire alarm. It was time for a plan and here is what I did. I started a small list of things we should and can easily grab. I realized that most of the things are in the diaper bag (basically provisions for the baby). Then the standard things for leaving- keys, wallet, phone. Additionally, while we have a fire extinguisher in our apartment, I didn't grab it during the alarm; in the future I will always carry it out with us. Lastly, Kacey and I discussed what we do with the cats. While we figured out a plan that varies based on who is home and where the fire is, I won't go in to details here. Email me for our decisions.

The next thing I did was talk to my bro-in-law Eric, a fireman, (thanks Eric!) about his experiences with apartment fires. After describing our building to him he confirmed that we are pretty good here. He mentioned that it is ok to lock your door behind you if you are unsure if there is really a fire. He also mentioned that our fire extinguisher should not be stored in the kitchen if it is our only one. So until we get a second one for the bedroom (so we can fight our way out if needed), it is moved out of the kitchen. He reiterated keys, wallet, phone, and provisions for a baby for 3-12 hours.

We now have a sign posted by our door with these items written down in marker:
- Keys, wallet, phone
- Diaper bag
- Shoes & coats
- Extinguisher

While readers may find this list very obvious, if you are in a new house or apartment, or have never thought about your fire escape plan, and have 30 seconds to react in the middle of the night, this quick exercise may prove to be extremely helpful in the future.

Some other things for you all to think about. Did you know that most smoke detectors only last 7-10 years? Consumer Reports just did an article about choosing good replacements if you think yours are too old (date should be stamped in to each one). Also, carbon monoxide detectors help you where you can't help yourself by detecting deadly odorless fumes. How many fire extinguishers do you have? If you say none, please go buy one today. If you say 1, think about where it is and where you may be during a fire. Lastly, get a fire safe! After years of putting it off, we finally bought one in March. It was less than $100 and holds passports, titles, SS cards, birth certificates, and backup DVDs I make every month or two from the computer. It is an easy thing to put off, so please consider getting one soon!

If you have specific questions, don't hesitate to ask a fire fighter. They love to help, that is why they do it!

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