Message from the Westport Fire Department: Back to School is the Time for Escape Planning

As students prepare to return to school, the Westport Fire Department urges parents to create an “Escape Plan”. 

For both younger children as well as college students, escape planning can be the difference between preparedness or tragedy.

 “Families should practice their escape plan at least twice a year. The exit drill should be as realistic as possible. Have everyone participate and appoint someone to be a monitor. Pretend that some exits are blocked by fire and practice using alternate routes. Instruct family members where to meet outside to get accountability. A fire drill is not a race; get out, but do so carefully,” stated Deputy Chief Nick Marsan.

For younger children and families, Deputy Chief Marsan offers the following tips:

  • Have a plan for young children who cannot get outside by themselves. You will need to wake babies and very young children and help them get out. In your plan, talk about who will help each child get out safely.
  • Get in the habit of sleeping with bedroom doors closed.  A closed bedroom door can give you extra time to acknowledge the alarm and escape safely.  A closed door can effectively block smoke and heat from the bedroom and help to slow down fire growth.
  • Know two ways out of every room. It is important to find two ways out of every room in the house, in case one exit is blocked by smoke or fire.
  • Choose a meeting place outside the home. Children should know what to do when they hear a smoke alarm and there is no adult around. Help them practice going to the outside meeting place. Once outside, stay outside. Do not attempt to rescue possessions or pets. With loved ones still inside and possibly trapped, this will be extremely difficult to do, but firefighters are better equipped to rescue them.
  • Practice your completed fire drill with all members of your family.  Everyone should practice the plan both during the day and at night.

Parents need to be aware of fire safety when choosing student housing for their college bound child.  These questions don’t cover everything, but they will help get you started.

  • Are there two ways out of each room, including those on upper floors? Second exits are usually windows for the first floor, but a second set of stairs for upper levels.
  • Does every student’s room have a smoke alarm? Does it send a signal to campus security or the fire department? Fire alarm systems will give everyone the warning that there is a fire, and it is time to get out.
  • Are the residence halls or off-campus housing equipped with an automatic fire sprinkler system? Sprinklers provide that vital line of defense when it comes to controlling a fire. Many residence halls are not sprinklered – ask for your student to be put in sprinklered housing.
  • Are there enough electrical outlets for all appliances without needing an extension cord?  Overloaded extension cords are a common fire cause.
  • What items are prohibited in residence halls because of fire safety? Is smoking, candles, and Halogen lamps prohibited in the residence halls? If not, they should be.

On behalf of the Westport Fire Department, we wish you a safe and happy school year.

Submitted by Westport, CT

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