If you and your family don’t know EDITH, your safety might be at risk. EDITH stands for “exit drills in the home,” and experts recommend that all families have a proper escape route for use in emergencies. How important is EDITH? Consider the statistics: 4,000 people die in fires every year, and 80% of those fires are in the home. Of those home fires, the majority occur at night.
As formal and intimidating as EDITH sounds, planning is neither time consuming nor difficult. In fact, a plan can be developed in less than half an hour and be modified as necessary with practice. Think about it: thirty minutes of planning may be all it takes to save the lives of your family. EDITH is like an extra insurance policy for your family. Are you ready to welcome EDITH into your home? Follow these three easy steps to get started.
Make a plan
Your goal is to develop a definitive plan to use in the event of fire. This plan needs to be a joint effort, which means that each and every family member needs to be present when you create it. Schedule a family meeting and get started. Be sure to consider the following:
- Because most fires occur at night, make sure that you have escape plans from bedrooms in place before you move on to other rooms.
- Identify two routes out of every room. Consider the doors primary exits and the windows secondary exits. Is there a room that doesn’t have two exit points? Look for possible ways to create an additional exit, like rearranging the furniture.
- It’s possible that you may be unable to evacuate together, and thus it’s important to have a meeting place for everyone to regroup. Work together to designate an emergency meeting spot outside the home. A neighbor’s yard, a particular street light, or a prominent landmark are all good options.
- Teach everyone in the home how to get low to avoid smoke, feel closed doors to test for heat before opening, and to stay inside a room and wait for help if the exits are blocked. Point out that fire fighters may look or sound funny in their gear, but it’s important not to hide from them.
- Emphasize the importance of not going back inside the house or building for any reason. Firefighters are trained to rescue people, pets, and possessions safely and will do so when they arrive.
Smoke detectors are the best line of defense, but only if they are properly working. Some states, like California, require homes to have at least one smoke detector in each house; other states are more lax. Regardless of the laws, smoke detectors should be located near bedrooms and on every level of the house, including the basement. Test smoke alarms every month, change the batteries twice a year, and replace the entire alarm every 10 years. Be sure to clean your smoke alarm regularly, as dust and cobwebs can impair functioning of the unit.
But having smoke detectors and a plan aren’t enough. You have to practice your plan. Think about schools. Schools are required to hold fire drills on a monthly basis. They often become so routine that students and teachers usually don’t panic when it turns out to be a real emergency. Take a note from schools and put your EDITH plan in action at least twice a year. Vary the time of day of the drill, and use different scenarios to prevent anyone from becoming accustomed to the same exit routes.
Easy enough? Here’s a step-by-step plan:
- Discuss the plan with all family members. Make sure everyone is home and in attendance.
- Start the initial fire drill with everyone in their respective bedrooms, pretending to be asleep.
- Initiate the fire drill by sounding the smoke alarm. Everyone in the house should be able to recognize this sound.
- Calmly exit the house using the main fire exits. Don’t run. Meet at the designated meeting spot. Try to complete this in less than two minutes.
- Designate someone to pretend calling 911.
- Go back inside and discuss what worked and what didn’t. Revise the plan as needed.
In addition to smoke alarms and drills, the following practices are recommended:
- Sleep with doors closed. This provides a barrier and slows the spread of fire.
- Keep exits clear at all times. This includes the paths to doors and windows.
- Make sure everyone knows how to open the doors and windows inside the home. Practice unlocking security bars if necessary.
- Occupants with special needs have special considerations. Their bedrooms should be on the ground floor closest to exits.
- If exiting from the top floor of a building, children should be evacuated first so they don’t become scared and/or panic when they find themselves alone.
- Plan an escape route from the upper floors. Special fire ladders can be purchased at hardware stores.
- Have a functioning fire extinguisher in a convenient location, like in the garage and under the kitchen sink, and train family members in their appropriate use.
Plans and preparations are great, but fire prevention is also important. Experts recommend the following fire prevention strategies:
- Have heaters and chimneys inspected regularly.
- Make sure furniture and curtains don’t block baseboard heaters.
- Keep portable heaters a safe distance away from furniture and bedding.
- Don’t burn candles unattended.
- Unplug appliances when not in use.
- Use extension cords sparingly.
- Dispose of fireplace and/or barbecue ashes in metal containers.
- Paints and flammable liquids should be kept in metal containers in a cool location.
- Keep matches and lighters away from children.
- Don’t smoke in bed or while lying down.
- Don’t use the oven to heat the home.
- Never leaving cooking unattended.
- Use a lid or baking soda to smother a grease fire; never throw water on it.
Sit down with your family and welcome EDITH into your home today. You may find yourself glad you did.