October is the beginning of Fire Safety Month. Are you prepared for the worst?
In 2012, fires caused 83 percent of civilian fire deaths in homes that included single-family dwellings, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The American Red Cross says that only 26 percent of families have actually developed and practiced a home fire escape plan. That, says one insurance provider for the rental housing industry, is way too low and property owners and managers should begin encouraging their tenants to develop and practice escape plans as early as possible.
“Your tenants have to have a plan in case of a fire,” said Ed Wolff, president of LeasingDesk Insurance. “An evacuation plan can help save lives.”
Wolff recently came to grips with the need to have such a plan when a home in his neighborhood burned to the ground late one Sunday night. While nobody was hurt from the blaze, it made him realize that his family hadn’t discussed what to do in case of a home fire.
“Seeing that house totally destroyed, it was scary,” he said. “What if the family couldn’t get out because they didn’t have a plan?”
A wealth of fire safety and evacuation preparedness information exists today, giving owners and managers plenty of resources to educate tenants. The American Red Cross and other sources offer the following suggestions:
Wolff and Kessler said property owners and third-party managers have a lot of incentive to educate tenants about fire safety preparedness. The potential direct damage cost alone is enough (from 2007-11 it was an average of $7.2 billion annually), but not dealing with human casualty claims is even greater.
Mike Kessler, a 36-year veteran of the insurance industry and LeasingDesk Insurance’s director of market development, recalled that a relative was burned badly in a house fire after re-entering the structure to look for a family member. Fortunately, the family member escaped without harm.
“Had they had a designated meeting place away from the home nobody may have gotten hurt,” Kessler said. “It’s important to designate a meeting spot and for everybody to know where to go.”
Every year, home structure fires claim innocent lives, many of which might have been saved if only the occupants had a plan.
“Just talking about the subject is a good start,” Wolff said. “You have to encourage families to have those important conversations about what to do in the event of a fire and create a plan. You can bet the Wolff family did.”
(Image source: Shutterstock)