In 2017, U.S. fire departments responded to 357,000 home structure fires, which caused 2,630 deaths and 10,600 injuries. Seven people died every day in a house fire nationally from 2012 to 2016.
Nonprofit San Diego Regional Fire Foundation, in conjunction with the National Fire Protection Association, launched a campaign recently titled “Not Every Hero Wears a Cape. Plan and Practice Your Escape.” The campaign was launched to promote Fire Prevention Week Oct. 6-12.
To help prevent tragedies and as part of the campaign, the fire foundation sponsored a contest encouraging residents to develop and practice their own home fire escape plan.
“We are proud to announce contest winner Neelu Nemati, who will receive a $500 prize,” said San Diego Regional Fire Foundation executive director Joan Jones.
An eighth-grader at PBMS, Nemati was inspired by a real-life event to enter the contest.
“We had firefighters and fire trucks outside my home for 48 hours last year when they were fighting a fire near my house that was pretty scary,” Neelu said. “I decided we should make a fire escape plan so we would know what to do in case of an actual emergency.”
Added Neelu: “I practiced the escape route with my family so they would know exactly what to do and where to meet. It made me feel safer and better prepared should we ever have to evacuate our home. We all have it down and know what to do.”
Advising others creating their own fire escape plans, Neelu said: “Have smoke alarms in every room and check them at least twice a year. Know how to get window screens out. Have at least two exits open and make sure they’re not blocked. Practice your escape route.”
Asked what she was going to do with her contest award money, Neelu said: “I’m going to put most of it in a college fund. I might spend some of it on art supplies.”
In a typical home fire, occupants may have as little as one to two minutes to escape safely. Escape planning and practice are essential in ensuring everyone gets out of a burning house safely. Yet, only one in three American households have developed and practiced a home fire escape plan, which is why the fire foundation encourages everyone to “be your family’s hero, prepare and practice your home fire escape plan today.”
The SDRFF, sdfirefoundation.org, was formed in 1989 to improve the system of fire and emergency services in San Diego County by providing financial support for first-responder equipment and training, by increasing public awareness, and by facilitating cooperation between cities, fire departments, county agencies, corporations, and other foundations. It is the only fire foundation supporting San Diego County's 29 fire agencies and 250 fire stations.