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Soisson: Escape planning, practice vital for fire safety

By Norwalk Reflector staff • Oct 6, 2018 at 2:00 PM

Today’s home fires burn faster than ever. In a typical home fire, you may have as little as one to two minutes to escape safely from the time the smoke alarm sounds. Knowing how to use that time wisely takes planning and practice.

The Norwalk Fire Department is teaming up with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to promote this year’s campaign, “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere.” The slogan works to educate the public about basic, but essential ways to quickly and safely escape a home fire. 

NFPA statistics show that the number of U.S. home fires has been steadily declining over the past few decades. However, the death rate per 1,000 home fires that are reported to fire departments was 10 percent higher in 2016 than in 1980.

“These numbers show that while we’ve made significant progress in teaching people how to prevent fires from happening, there’s still much more work to do in terms of educating the public about how to protect themselves in the event of one,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA vice president of outreach and advocacy. “This is particularly critical given the increased speed at which today’s home fires grow and spread.” 

Although people feel safest in their home, it is also the place where people are at the greatest risk for a fire, with four out of five U.S. fire deaths occurring at home, Carli said. She noted such over-confidence contributes to a complacency toward home-escape planning and practice.

“Working in the fire service for many years, we know that people often make choices in fire situations that jeopardize their safety or even cost them their lives,” Chief John Soisson said. “We need to do a better job of teaching people about the potentially life-saving difference escape planning and practice can make and motivating them to action.”

Soisson said this year’s campaign highlights three steps people can take to help quickly and safely escape a fire:

• Look for places fire could start.

• Listen for the sound of the smoke alarm.

• Learn two ways out of every room.

While NFPA and Norwalk firefighters are focusing on home fires, these fire-safety messages apply to virtually anywhere.

“Situational awareness is a skill people need to use wherever they go,” Soisson said. “No matter where you are, look for available exits. If the alarm system sounds, take it seriously and exit the building immediately.”

The fire department is hosting a series of events in support of this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign. That includes visiting local schools to educate children on the importance of fire safety.

NFPA has been the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week for more than 90 years. For more information about Fire Prevention Week and home escape planning, visit www.firepreventionweek.org.

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