Capt. Tommy Rutledge of Gwinnett County Fire and Emergency Services spoke to a group of neighborhood leaders in Lilburn a couple weeks ago. The information he shared can save lives many times over:
Every year more than 4000 people die, including hundreds of children, and 20,000 people are injured in fires, according to the United States Fire Administration.
Every person will experience a serious fire at some time in their life. It is important for every family to conduct fire drills at least twice yearly and to have equipment, such as escape ladders available for second story bedrooms. Designate a meeting place outside the house to rejoin the family. Once out of the burning building, do not return to retrieve anything. Notify fire personnel if someone else is still inside the building.
Wiring and chimney checks should be done regularly, as well as checking fire alarms yearly. Fire alarms should be on every level of the house and outside every sleeping area. according to the Georgia Office of Insurance and Fire Safety. They recommend that alarms should be tested monthly, and have batteries replaced twice yearly (when the time changes). In addition, the entire unit should be replaced every 10 years. In most instances, in the U.S., fires are ruled as accidental; in other countries, they are described as being caused by negligence.
Capt. Rutledge continued:
Time is an enemy in a fire: It takes five minutes to fill the room with smoke; two minutes for the alarm to sound. Once a fire starts, a person has only seconds to get out before the smoke and heat overwhelm him. Fires double in size every 30 seconds, and once the temperature reaches 150 degrees Fahrenheit, the lungs are vaporized. As soon as fire is detected, the person should drop to the floor and crawl. Not only is the air less toxic close to the floor, but it is cooler.
At a height of five feet off the floor, the air is over 500 F and contains toxic gases, especially carbon monoxide. Generally smoke alarms detect and alarm after two to five minutes, allowing the fire to be well involved. Everyone should sleep with bedroom doors closed, reducing the chances of ventilating the fire. Capt. Rutledge recommends that smoke detectors should be placed both in the hall and in the bedrooms.
Although the movies show people awakening from sleep to run across a room and escape a fire, no one can smell when asleep. A sleeping person will not only not be able to smell smoke, but can be affected by carbon monoxide, creating paralysis or the inability to get out of bed and save himself.
One of the mottos of the fire department is “Stand by your pan”, because the number one call for Gwinnett Fire Department is due to kitchen fires. It is very easy to walk away from a stove to answer the phone or watch a segment on the news, to become distracted and forget about something cooking on the stove. The fire department offers free home surveys to discover hazards.
Gwinnett Fire Department has 845 personnel on its force, with most firefighters serving 24 hours on and 48 hours off duty. They are all cross-trained for fire fighting and emergency medical treatment.