Protect your family from fire – plan!

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- What's the best way to protect your family from fire? Be ahead of the game, of course. When it comes to fire, your best defense is a good offense. Hanscom Air Force Base Fire Department is teaming up with the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Oct. 9 through 15 to let our community know" "It's Fire Prevention Week. Protect your Family from Fire!"

The fire department is holding fun, family-oriented activities, locally, during Fire Prevention Week to support the national observance. We strongly encourage Hanscom residents to participate in these events to learn more about the importance of smoke alarms and other ways to protect your home and family from fire.

The Fire Prevention office has scheduled fire safety training for the schools and all child care programs during Fire Prevention Week. The marquee event for the week at Hanscom is the Fire Safety Walk that will take place Oct. 15 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Castle Park. The event will consist of several fire safety booths and demonstrations. There will be food and beverages provided, as well as Fire Prevention Week giveaways and prizes.

As always, the focus of FPW is to prevent home fires. This year, the campaign is urging people to protect their homes and families with life-saving technology and planning.

While the fire department does our best to educate the community on preventing home fires, sometimes our best efforts may not be enough to keep a home safe. In 2009, NFPA estimates U.S. fire departments responded to more than 360,000 home fires which caused 12,650 injuries and 2,565 deaths.

Seconds and minutes can mean the difference between life and death. We want to ensure that Hanscom residents know what to do if a fire breaks out in their home.

Preparation is an important part of being able to deal with an emergency and it is crucial you take steps to prepare your family for the potential of a home fire by having an escape plan and practicing it.

Although preparing for the unexpected is difficult, reviewing the information below and taking action based on it to plan for a fire could save lives.

Planning your escape
· Pull together everyone in your household and make a plan. Walk through your home and inspect all possible ways out of your home. Households with children should consider drawing a map of your home, marking two ways out of each room, including windows and doors. Also, mark the location of each smoke alarm. Everyone in the household must understand the escape plan. When you walk through your plan, check to make sure the ways out are clear and doors and windows can be opened easily.

· Choose an outside meeting place, such as a neighbor's house, a light post, mailbox or stop sign, a safe distance in front of your home where everyone can meet after they've escaped. Make sure to mark the location of the meeting place on your escape plan.

· Have everyone memorize the emergency phone number of the fire department. This way any member of the household can call from a neighbor's home or a cellular phone once safely outside.

· If there are infants, older adults or family members with mobility limitations, make sure that someone is assigned to assist them in the fire drill and in the event of an emergency. Assign a backup person, too, in case the designee is not home during the emergency.

· Be fully prepared for a real fire. When a smoke alarm sounds, get outside immediately.

· Once you're outside, stay outside. Under no circumstances should you ever go back into a burning building. If someone is missing, inform the fire department dispatcher when you call. Firefighters have the skills and equipment to perform rescues.

Putting your plan to the test
· Practice your home fire escape drill twice a year, making the drill as realistic as possible.

· Make arrangements in your plan for anyone in your home who has a disability.

· Always choose the way out that is safest - the one with the least amount of smoke and heat - but be prepared to escape under toxic smoke if necessary. When you do your fire drill, everyone in the family should practice getting low and going under the smoke to your way out.

· Closing doors on your way out slows the spread of fire, giving you more time to safely escape.

· In some cases, smoke or fire may prevent you from exiting your home or apartment building. To prepare for an emergency like this, practice "sealing yourself in for safety" as part of your home fire escape plan. Close all doors between you and the fire. Use duct tape or towels to seal the door cracks and cover air vents to keep smoke from coming in. If possible, open your windows at the top and bottom so fresh air can get in.

Fire Prevention Week is a perfect time to practice your fire escape plan.