Every year, house fires claim the lives of over 2,500 people and cause around $7 billion in damage. While house fire deaths are dropping (largely due to fire safety awareness), it’s still a number that is far too high for something so often preventable. Given these startling statistics, I’d like to provide some simple steps aimed at reducing deaths and injuries resulting from home fires.

First I’d like to outline a simple Two-Step plan to help families escape a home fire in less than two minutes. The first step of the plan is to develop and practice a Home Fire Escape Plan with your family. The following steps are recommended in creating your Home Fire Escape Plan:

• Develop two different exit strategies for each room of the home.
• Identify a designated meeting spot for once you get outside.
• Ensure children know what a fire alarm sounds like and what actions should be taken in the event an alarm goes off.
• Establish a family emergency communications plan and ensure that all household members know who to contact if they cannot find one another.
• Practice escaping from your home at least twice a year. Press the smoke alarm test button or yell “Fire“ to alert everyone that they must get out.
• Make sure everyone knows how to dial 9-1-1 for emergency help.
• Teach household members how to ‘Stop, Drop, and Roll’ in the event their clothes catch on fire.
• Because smoke rises, remind household members to stay low when escaping a smoke-filled room.

The second component of this two-part plan is to check fire alarms every month to make certain they are working properly in the event of a fire and the batteries do not need to be replaced. When smoke alarms fail to operate correctly, it is generally due to missing, disconnected or depleted batteries. It is important to note smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years from the manufacturer’s date listed on the back of the alarm. According to the National Fire Protection Association, three out of five home fire deaths occur in homes where there is no smoke alarm or no working smoke alarm, which is why this second step is so important.

In addition to following this two-step plan for fire safety, I would encourage you to take the time to read more information about the different ways you can protect your home from a fire. This includes keeping flammable objects a safe distance from items that get hot, such as heaters and stoves, never leaving a candle unattended, and learning about safe cooking methods. To read more about the different ways you can protect your home and family from fires, please visit The National Fire Protection Association.

If you would like to review more about the legislature, please visit the Texas Legislature Online. If you have questions regarding any of the information mentioned in this week’s article, please do not hesitate to call my Capitol or District Office. As always, my offices are available at any time to assist with questions, concerns or comments (Capitol Office, 512-463-0672; District Office; 361-949-4603).

– State Representative Todd Hunter, District 32

Rep. Hunter represents Nueces County (Part). He can be contacted at todd.hunter@house.texas.gov or at 512-463-0672.