(WHNT) Huntsville, Ala. – This week, you may be hear a lot about something dangerous that happens about every 80 seconds in America: a housefire. This is National Fire Prevention Week and experts are pushing the importance of making sure there are two ways out of any room you may be in.
Huntsville’s Fire Department stays busy, averaging one housefire a day everyday.
For Fire Prevention Officer Dan Wilkerson, he’s had to investigate nine deaths in the last six years.
“Each fire is different, but in most cases, less than six minutes is all you have to get out of there,” said Wilkerson.
That’s why, he says, having two ways out of any room is so important.
“Whether it be two doors or a door and a window,” said Wilkerson. “You want to make sure that everyone in your home is trained to have two ways out. and this may include overnight guests that come stay at your home, children.”
But it doesn’t stop there.
Wilkerson says families should have an escape plan, a designated safe place to meet outside the home, and it should all be easy for children to remember.
“They go to that meeting place and they’re told to stay at that meeting place even if their parents are not there..Stay there and wait on them. No matter what’s going on with the house, Never go back inside the house.
He says this week is a great opportunity to devise and test out an escape plan.
He suggests families practice it in the dark– maybe even blind-folded– since when smoke fills the house, it’s easy to get disoriented.
“A lot of people believe that the fire is the most hazardous thing, because of the heat, but a lot of times it’s the smoke. in that smoke,” said Wilkerson. “There’s dangerous toxins like carbon monoxide. and once carbon monoxide gets in your system, it can render you unconscious.”
And he admits he’s seen that very scenario: people who’ve died in their sleep from carbon monoxide, never even aware their home was on fire.
The solution can be found in a working smoke detector, which should get new batteries twice a year.
Wilkerson added he sees many possible exits in homes blocked by furniture.
In the event of a fire, people should try to stay low as they get out — fall and crawl.
Nationally, the most recent statistics show 369,000 house fires, resulting in more than 2,600 deaths.
Financially speaking, in Alabama, the average loss per fire claim is more than $31,000