Family Safety Tips from Tim Reardon of the Bend Fire Department

House Talk Episode 29 – Tips from Tim Reardon of the Bend Fire Department on Keeping Your Family Safe

Karen Malanga: This is Karen Malanga with House Talk. I’m excited to have Tim Reardon back from the Bend Fire Department. Not only is he a firefighter, but he’s also a paramedic. And I’m just going to let Tim take it on his own this morning and talk about what he’s passionate about and what he would like you all to learn about.

Take it away, Tim.

Tim Reardon: Well, thanks. As we approach the holidays, and really all year round, it’s important to discuss with your family, those living under the same roof, just to share responsibilities of fire safety around the house.

That includes everything from proper disposal of ashes from a barbeque, keeping combustibles away from any sort of significant heat sources, instead of using candles, for example, using battery-operated candles as an alternative.

Karen: That makes a lot of sense.

Tim: These are all things that seem common sense, but really account for majority of the fires that we see.

Karen: What do you recommend for families? In the case of my daughter and her husband, they have a four-year-old, a two-year-old and a newborn. Everybody sleeps upstairs. I worry about them all the time.

In case of a fire, the little ones are too small to learn how to use a ladder. The two-year-old could never use a ladder to get out of the second story. What could they be doing in that home that would perhaps make it safer if there was a fire?

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Tim: That’s a great question, and one that we get asked a lot. We try to do a lot of education on this because it is a concern for a lot of families.

I think the first and most important thing is to make sure you have working smoke alarms in every bedroom and every common space—if there’s a basement, including the basement. Especially a large house, just smoke alarms around the house as needed.

And then, just making sure that you test them once a month, make sure that the smoke alarms are not expired.

Karen: I don’t mean to laugh, but I can’t remember if I’ve ever tested my smoke alarms.

Tim: And that’s not uncommon. Don’t feel bad. That’s not uncommon. A lot of people are surprised that the month reminder. And often times, people will remember that they have smoke alarms when they’re cooking, and they generate some smoke and say, “Oh, yes, we have smoke alarms.”

Karen: Or they turn that one off because it always goes off when they’re cooking.

Tim: Exactly. So yes, like I said, fires that originate in the kitchen account for a tremendous number of fires that we go on. Prevention is the best ticket to safety.

So, making sure you have functioning smoke alarms, properly installed, working, not covered up or removed.

And then the second part is having a family escape plan.

Karen: That’s what I was thinking they could use something. I know the four-year-old, he’s almost five, and he had fire prevention week at his pre-school here in town, which was very cool. I know that he had mentioned to his mom and dad, “We need a plan.”

How do you do that? You gather on the landing?

Tim: Yeah! So, it’s important to talk to children about what to do in the event that they hear a smoke alarm going off in the middle of the night. If it’s safe for them to go out, sometimes going out the front door isn’t necessarily the safest way.

Sometimes you have to use alternative exits, the back door, side door. Whichever way they get out, the important thing is they a) get out safely, and then have a common meeting place.

So for us, the most important thing is life safety. And so when we arrive to a structure fire in a fire engine, we want to make sure that everybody is accounted for. And by having a family escape plan, when we show up, and having a point of contact saying that everybody is out of the house, for us, still we have to fight the fire and put it out. But our priorities change a little bit.

Everybody is out of the house, there’s no life safety, now we can work on extinguishing.

If we show up, and they have a family escape plan, and all but one person is there, and they can point to their bedroom, we’ll know where to look first. We carry ladders on all of our fire engines. That’s something we train on quite a bit, those rescues from first story, second story, third story residences.

By having that escape plan, that’s the next step for letting the fire department know what sort of action to take when we show up.

Other things we want to reinforce are how to get out of the house safely.

When we go out and do public safety messages in schools and parents’ groups and children’s groups, we always ask them some basic questions. What happens when you’re at the campfire? You’re at a fire. Does the smoke go up, or does smoke go down? Smoke goes up. So that really means the safest space is two or three feet from the ground.

And so reinforcing that stay low and go mentality, that’s where the safest air to breathe is. If we try to walk in a smoke-filled room, it’s going to be really dangerous. You can become overcome with smoke inhalation injuries.

Karen:  That’s what my grandson was saying. He was saying, “Stay low and go.” So he did remember that. It’s easy to remember.

Tim: Kids are the best at remembering those little sayings. We do a lot of safety stuff especially at this time of the year and fire prevention week. Kids are great at retaining that.

Karen: I remember too just as a child. We had to evacuate once in the hills above Los Angeles. I remember that we had always had a plan and I was only allowed to take one thing. My dad was pretty adamant.

“You don’t run around your room and gather. If we have to evacuate, we’re going.”

And so I took Barbie. That’s how old I am. But I grabbed my Barbie, and we evacuated.

But it was nice knowing that I could only take one thing, and I already had that one thing in mind as a little girl. It had to be my Barbie.

I can’t believe I’m revealing this on House Talk. Oh, my god!

Anyway Tim, if someone wants to get a hold of the fire department and get some advice, is there a number that they can call?

Tim: Certainly. They can call our administration office. They can route you to different departments as needed. But the phone number is 541-322-6300.

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