There are no easy suggestions about how to react if trapped in the kind of fire that killed six children in a Seat Pleasant house Thanksgiving morning, Maj. Thomas Brinkley, a Prince George's fire official, said yesterday.
But fire officials suggest steps to prevent fires in the first place, and to be prepared should one occur.
Seven adults in the home of the Williams family survived the fire with minor injuries, most by jumping out of windows. "If the room you're in is on fire, you may have to jump. That's what faced them; some of the rooms were cut off by fire," Brinkley said.
In some cases, ladders can be crucial in saving lives, and neighbors can use them to help people escape a burning house. However, fire authorities say no one other than professionals should go back into a burning building.
Here are precautionary methods that fire officials say most people can use:All occupants of a house should develop a fire safety plan, identifying ways to get out if doors are blocked by fire or smoke.
In addition to smoke detectors on every level, homes should be equipped with safety ladders of collapsible rope or chain styles that can easily be hooked over a sill and thrown out a window. When awakening to a fire, check for smoke in or around any closed door before opening it. Keep close to the floor, crawling on hands and knees to avoid the toxic gases and smoke that rise.
If clothing catches fire, fall to the floor and roll around to extinguish it. Running will only fan and spread the flames.
As winter and the Christmas holiday approaches, fire officials ask that residents pay particular attention to heaters and electric appliances, making sure they are not placed near curtains or furniture and that their cords are in good condition.
The fuel used in kerosene heaters should be just kerosene, never gasoline or diesel fuel.
Fireplaces should be cleaned professionally each year to avoid buildup of materials that can ignite. Ashes, which can hold embers that smolder for up to two days, should be disposed of in metal containers and never stored inside a house.
Smoke detectors can mean the difference between waking up to a small, smoldering fire or to a house engulfed in flames. Alarms should be checked monthly and batteries replaced at least annually.
Some area fire departments provide free smoke detectors to residents upon request.