Make a resolution to practice fire prevention

During the week of Christmas 2012, 70 lives were lost to fire across the nation. This hit especially close to home for many of us with the tragic fire on Huse Road in New Ipswich on Dec. 23.

What should our response to this fire be as parents, grandparents and community members? For many of us, our first response was to hug our kids, grandkids or any kids that we could find and think how fortunate we are. Many of you gave gifts and money to the family to assist in their time of need and many of you will continue to give in the weeks to come. I thank all of you for what you have done and are doing, but please don’t stop there. With the coming of the new year, I ask that you also make a few simple resolutions in order to protect yourself and your loved ones from fire:

∎ Have a working smoke alarm on each level of your home and, if possible, one inside or outside of every bedroom.

∎ Teach your kids what to do when the alarm sounds, including “crawl low under smoke” and “get out and stay out.”

∎ Replace smoke alarms that were installed before 2003 with new ones because many smoke alarms have a life expectancy of 10 years or less.

∎ Develop an escape plan for you and your family including two ways out of each bedroom, and practice it often so that it becomes routine.

∎ Share your escape plan with guests who are staying at your home. Many of us educate our families but forget to tell people who come to stay with us what to do if the smoke alarms sound. After all, what can happen in one night?

∎ Talk with extended family and friends about developing their own escape plans. If your children spend the night with classmates or at the home of another, make sure that they have working smoke detectors and an escape plan and make sure your children know what that plan is.

∎ If you are building a new home or remodeling your existing home, talk with your contractor about residential sprinklers. A single residential sprinkler in a system can extinguish or hold a fire at bay until your family can safely escape.

∎ Never leave food cooking or candles burning when unattended.

∎ Extinguish all smoking materials and do not smoke in bed.

∎ Keep all matches and lighters out of the reach of small children.

∎ Don’t overload extension cords and do not run them under carpets and mattresses.

∎ Keep combustible materials away from heaters and wood stoves.

Eighty percent of fires are preventable and eighty percent of all fire deaths occur in the home. The fight against fire and fire deaths begins long before the first smell of smoke and the first visible flame. This is a battle that we can win through education and prevention. On behalf of firefighters throughout the region, I ask that you make the above resolutions this year and join the fight. We can’t win without you.

Best wishes for a safe, healthy and Happy New Year.

Meredith Lund is the Deputy Chief of the New Ipswich Fire Department. Statistics were gathered by NH State Fire Marshal William J Degnan and distributed to state fire marshals across the country.

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