Area first responders want your family to be prepared for a fire. They’re going into classrooms to spread the word to students, and it’s not as easy as “stop, drop, and roll.”
Bernadette Galvez with the Madison Fire Department wants to be sure, at the very least, that children know what a fire alarm sounds like.
“We like them to be familiar with the sound, and then what to do if a fire breaks out in their home,” Galvez said.
Galvez has posters, checklists and props ready for her classroom presentations, encouraging them to “be rabbit ready”.
“Rabbits always, always have two ways out,” Galvez explained.
Along those lines, Galvez is urging children to plan at least two escapes from every room in the house and a meeting place outside. She’s heard that kids she talks to are often going home and educating their parents about making a plan, but it’s up to the parents to make sure it is implemented.
“Practice,” Galvez advises parents. “Practice, practice, practice. Just keep doing it, and do it with them.”
Galvez added that getting out as quickly as possible is key. She stresses that putting out the flames is the firefighters’ job, and people shouldn’t try to extinguish large fires themselves.
Galvez also reminds people to close doors behind them as they are leaving a burning building, if they can. That action, she says, could stop the spread of a fire or even put out parts of the blaze. Galvez says fires double in size every 30 seconds, which could take down a house in a free-burn environment in less than five minutes.
The American Red Cross is right beside the firefighters in the worst of those situations.
“They need to have a plan,” said Tom Mooney, the American Red Cross of the western Wisconsin region CEO.
Mooney says having working smoke detectors and a plan in place can literally be a livesaver.
The Red Cross has seen more dire fire incidents in the area, according to Mooney. He credits the tough economy for forcing more people to spend more time at home, and therefore having more accidents. Mooney also says hot weather causes people to do more indoors, like cooking. The Madison Fire Department says the kitchen is the most common place for a fire to start.
Even with prevention measures in place, Mooney understands the worst of situations can happen regardless.
“The most likely cause of a fire is a human being. We make mistakes,” Mooney said.
Galvez added, “As long as there are humans, we'll have fires.”
Galvez did mention, though, that it was very uncommon for her to see casualties associated with a fire if there were working smoke alarms in the house. She says you should test those once a month and, according to Wisconsin law, there should be at least one smoke detector on every floor of the house.