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82 percent of families with kids have no fire safety plan

The firefighters came to my children’s school recently.

They talked about what they should – and should not – do in the event of a fire. The kids practiced escaping the building through their classroom windows. They heard what the school’s fire alarms sound like.

Children across the country are practicing these important steps in their schools, but most of them are not getting this practice at home, where it is just as crucial. A national survey, conducted for the American Red Cross, found that many Americans have a false sense of security about surviving a fire.

Nearly 70 percent of parents believe their children would know how to escape a home fire with little help. But only 18 percent of families with children ages 3-17 have actually practiced home fire drills, and just 48 percent of families have talked about fire safety, according to the survey.

“Statistically, we are fooling ourselves when we just assume that our kids know what to do,” says Jolene Carpenter, disaster program manager for the American Red Cross.

Single-family fires – not hurricanes, super storms or tornadoes – are the No. 1 disaster the American Red Cross responds to, Carpenter says.

In October, Fire Prevention Month, NBC’s Today Show aired a video of a family testing its readiness for a fire emergency in a simulated nighttime house fire. It quickly became evident that the family did not have a fire plan.

“It’s an eye opener,” Carpenter says of the video. “Most people think you have five to 10 minutes to get out of your home when an actual fire occurs. But statistics show us that you have less than two minutes to get out.”

The American Red Cross says these simple fire safety steps will help you and your family be prepared:

  • Smoke detectors: Have at least one working smoke detector on every level of your home and in every sleeping area. Test the alarms monthly, and replace the batteries at least once a year.
  • Fire escape plan: Create a fire escape plan. Practice the plan as a family at least twice a year.
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