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Fire Prevention Week encourages families to plan their escape

The last few moments of a close football game is not the only time the two-minute drill could be a game changer – a two-minute home fire escape plan could actually be a life-saver.

According to the American Red Cross, home fires are the nation’s most frequent disaster.  Last year, the organization’s office in the Morgantown area – the Central Appalachian Region – helped nearly 1,040 local families with 88% needed help after a home fire.

The National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 9-15, is meant to educate the public about simple but important actions they can take to keep themselves and those around them safe from home fires.  

Started in 1922 to commemorate the great Chicago fire of 1871, this is the campaign’s 100th year promoting fire safety making it the longest running public health observance in the country.

The theme for this year’s week is “Fire Won’t Wait, Plan Your Escape,” which urges everyone to test smoke alarms regularly and to prepare and practice a two-minute escape plan in case of a home fire.

Creating a home escape plan can be done easily with just a few steps. 

First draw a simple map or floor plan of your home with doors and windows labeled.

Find at least two ways to exit every room in case one exit is blocked or dangerous to use.  It’s also important to make sure possible exits are not blocked by furniture or clutter.

“Knowing your routes of exit – that might seem simple but to some people in a panic it’s very easy to get overwhelmed,” said Star City Firefighter Roman Olszewski.  “Let’s say the fire is in the living room and the living room meets the front door – what are you going to do then?  Is there another door or a first floor window you could possibly jump out of?”

Make a designated outside meeting place in front of your home, like a specific landmark or tree that is away from possible danger- even a neighbor’s house, where family members are to go after safely exiting the house.

Make sure there are smoke alarms on every level of your home, including inside and outside sleeping areas, and test them monthly.  Battery-operated alarms should get fresh batteries every six months.  

“Normally it’s recommended whenever we change the time on clocks.” Olszewski said.  “I have seen smoke alarms save somebody’s life.  So it’s very beneficial to have.”

Olszewski said fire extinguishers are also a great fire prevention tool that many don’t think to purchase.

“Fire extinguishers definitely in the kitchen and at least one on every floor of the home and the garage as well,” he said.

One thing Olszewski said to avoid doing is sleeping with bedroom doors open. 

“That is very bad, because fire spreads very quickly in the house with open doors,” he said.  “I can understand it might be frightening for little kids to sleep with the door closed, but the safer route is to always shut the door.”

“It actually gives us an extra 15-20 minutes to save or help the person that is trapped,” he added.

After the plan is created, practice the drill until everyone in the home knows exactly what to do and make sure children know what the alarm sounds like and what to do if they hear it.

Olszewski said it is also important to make sure children know firefighters are there to help when there is a fire.

“It’s very frightening for kids,” he said.  “We can sound very intimidating, a lot of the little kids say we sound like Darth Vader almost, but just remember we’re friends, we’re there to help, and do not be afraid.”

The Red Cross reminds households with family members who are disabled to be sure to make a plan that caters to their needs.  Things like strobe lights and bed shaker alarms are options that can help those who may not be able to hear an alarm.

If you would like more information about fire safety and prevention as well as examples of escape plans and printable floor plan grids, visit or  For interactive fire safety information focused on kids, or to join Sparky’s Fire Safety Club, visit