NEWS | Sept. 11, 2020

Home fire safety should factor in people with disabilities

By Richard S. Campos JBSA Fire Emergency Services

Like Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz” stated, “There’s no place like home.” It’s a place to relax, share laughter with family and friends, and enjoy home-cooked meals.

The majority of fire deaths transpire in the home, so helping everyone escape from a fire, especially those with disabilities, must be considered in this type of emergency.

Home fire sprinklers protect lives by allowing people more time to escape. When selecting an apartment or home, choose one that has a fire sprinkler system installed.

Smoke alarms should be installed in every sleeping room, be outside each sleeping area and located on every level of the home.

Test your smoke alarms once a month by pushing the test button. If you can’t reach the alarm, ask for help.

For added safety, interconnecting the smoke alarms is highly recommended, so if one sounds, they all sound. This gives occupants more time to escape. Smoke alarms with sealed long-life batteries are generally good for up to 10 years and this type of smoke alarm is beneficial for those who find it difficult to change batteries.

There are also smoke alarms and alert devices for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. These devices feature strobe lights that flash when the smoke alarm sounds, thereby warning occupants of a possible fire.

Another item that’s available for the hard of hearing is a pillow or bed that shakes to wake the disabled occupant so they can escape. These devices are activated by the sound of the smoke alarm activation.

Including everyone in the home escape planning is vital, so get input from each member of the family on the best way to escape a fire.

Home fire drills are equally important and everyone should participate. Knowing where to meet outside the home, taking accountability of family members, and calling 9-1-1 should be practiced. Keep a phone by the bed to call for help in case you can’t escape.

Contact your local fire department and ask them if they can review your plan and recommend any inputs. Ask if they maintain a directory of occupants in the home that may require assistance in escaping a fire in the home. If you have a service animal, include them in your fire escape plan during an emergency.

For more information about home safety for people with disabilities, visit the National Fire Prevention Association website at www.nfpa.org/education , or contact the fire prevention offices at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston at 210-221-2727, at JBSA-Lackland at 210-671-2921, or at JBSA-Randolph at 210-652-6915.