National Fire Prevention Week: Tips to keep your family safe

SPOKANE, Wash. - Spokane area firefighters and Red Cross volunteers are teaming up this week with an awareness campaign that could bring them to your doorstep. Sunday marked the start of National Fire Prevention Week, which is an effort educate the public about fire safety and prevention practices. 

Spokane Valley Firefighters spent Saturday checking on residents to install smoke alarms and share some life saving information. Volunteers went house to house to make sure smoke alarms are in the right locations and throughout the home. Residents also received a Home Fire Safety Checklist with important information about cooking safety, electrical safety and heating. 

Greater Inland Northwest Red Cross Executive Director Megan Snow said every second counts when you're trying to escape the smoke and flames. 

"The biggest thing about fire safety that people don't realize is that you have two minutes to get out of your home when a fire starts," Snow said. "Two minutes is not a lot of time, so really, the best steps you can take are before anything happens. You have to have a plan." 

Snow said seven people die in the United States every day due to house fires. 

"And we think that's way too much," Snow said. 

That's why the Red Cross is teaming up with area fire departments to make sure everyone has the tools and information they need. When volunteers did a safety check on 98-year-old Willard Ollila's home in the Spokane Valley, they noticed he only had one smoke detector in his home and it was more than 10 years old. 

"I didn't know that we had to have one in every bedroom," Ollila said. 

Firefighters explained that every home needs a working smoke alarm in each bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level. It didn't take long for Spokane Valley Firefighters to install alarms in all of those places in Ollila's home, free of charge. 

"I Feel really good about this and for free, what's better than being free?" Ollila said.

Ollila may not have known he needed the alarm in every bedroom, but he did know his plan to safely escape in case of a fire emergency. That preparation is key, according to Snow. 

"You have to have a plan and practice that plan all the time just because it could save your family's life," Snow said. 

Fire officials say it's crucial to know at least two ways to escape from every room of your home. Each person in the home should know where to go to a safe spot to meet after a fire. Once a plan is in place, every one in the home should be able to escape in less than two minutes. 

Snow said that in the Inland Northwest, the Red Cross responded to more than 200 home fires last year, which is why the partnership between the Red Cross and local fire departments is so important. On Saturday, volunteers worked to visit more than 400 homes in the University Valley neighborhood. On Saturday, October 14, more volunteers with the Red Cross and Spokane Fire Department will be doing risk assessments in the Garland District. 

If you'd like a fire personnel to visit your home for an inspection or to install a smoke detector, Snow said you can contact both the Spokane Valley Fire Department and Spokane Fire Department.