"We like to say smoke detectors are the cheapest form of life insurance you can buy," Harrisonburg Fire Chief Larry Shifflett has been fighting fires in Harrisonburg for nearly 34 years. And in that time, he's seen it all.
Monday, he and Fire Prevention Specialist Wanda Willis are watching one family's first fire drill. Our cameras were there, too, to see what happens.
Two-year-old Carson Murray is listening to a smoke detector for the first time. "What's that?" he asks. His father, Kevin, tells Carson what the sound means. Carson is alert, but he quickly goes back to watching television.
Fire Prevention Specialist Wanda Willis says, "As soon as it went off he should just say very matter-of-factly, not anything to panic the child, okay, our smoke alarm is going off. We need to get out of the house and make sure there's not a fire."
This is the first step in training Carson. But Shifflett says many families never practice a fire escape plan.
"Even if you just had one from the initial inception of the plan, it at least gives the child something he should do should he hear that smoke detector," he says.
That plan should include:
And you should practice at night when most fatal house fires happen.
"There's a misnomer that people have that the fire is going to wake them up. The fire's not going to wake you up. The smoke and heat from the fire is going to make you continue to sleep and it's going to eventually kill you, so that's why we recommend for people to sleep with their bedroom doors closed," Shifflett says.
He also says it's important to not place alarms in kitchens or garages, where vapors will trigger false alarms. Detectors should be cleaned and tested regularly and replaced after ten years. And a good way to remember to change batteries is to do it twice a year when you change your clocks.
Smoke detectors cost between $5 and $40. That's big protection for a small price.
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Source: www.nfpa.org (National Fire Protection Agency Web site) contributed to this report.