Smoke Alarms and Escape Plans Go Hand in Hand

Sound the alarm (the smoke alarm that is). Smoke alarms are your path to safety in the event of a house fire, because if one sounds, that’s your cue to move you and your family calmly and quickly outside, and call 9-1-1. Smoke spreads fast, and can not only incapacitate you, causing serious injury (smoke inhalation can be deadly), it can impact visibility to escape.


  • Put an up-to-date smoke alarm in every bedroom and on every level of the house. (Larger homes may need more smoke alarms to make sure they’re heard). Note where they’re located.
  • Smoke alarms should be interconnected (so when one sounds, they all sound).
  • Test your smoke alarms every month. Have fresh batteries ready.
  • Replace all smoke alarms every 10 years.
  • Have your charged cell phone at your fingertips before an emergency, to grab it and go.
  • Prepare a metal box of valuable legal documents or cherished items in advance, so it’s accessible in the case of a fire.
  • Importantly, have a home fire escape plan grid. Practice your fire drill together with two ways out, and a set meeting place outside. Download a checklist and template at

Never leave candles unattended or touching surfaces that can catch fire and burn. Put them out before sleep. Dryers account for 92 percent of all house fires. Clean your dryer’s lint catcher every time you use it. Never leave a running dryer (or washer) unattended. Check your washing machine; fires can start due to a mechanical or electrical malfunction. Handle gasoline or propane for outdoor grills with caution and safety. Cool and wet down charcoal (or fire pit/fireplace ashes) to dispose of alone in a fire-proof container. Keep portable oxygen cylinders at least five feet from any heat sources, be it an open flame, or electrical device. No one on medical oxygen or near it should be smoking. Use a portable generator in well-ventilated locations, only (never in an attached open garage). Turn it off before refueling, and store fuel away from living areas. And for the next cold snap: Portable fireplaces are only for adult use in an open, ventilated area, three feet away from tables, kids, and pets. Keep fuel, lighters, and matches stored safely out of children’s reach. Cool down for at least 15 minutes before refueling, extinguish before bed, and clean up any spillage.

The National Fire Protection Association says that the death rate per 100 home fires is more than twice as high in homes with no working smoke alarms. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

By Lisa Miceli Feliciano


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