Two minutes – that’s the amount of time you will have to escape a burning home, according to the American Red Cross. Planning ahead to prevent fires and get out if one occurs can mean the difference between life and death.

October is National Fire Prevention Month, and it is a great opportunity for parents to take stock of their family’s safety plans.

Tristan Johnson, a fire inspector with the Greenville City Fire Department, said family fire safety starts with the youngest members. Johnson said a simple step can make a big difference.

“The biggest thing is what you have them in – pajamas and blankets,” he said.

Vintage and handmade items are wonderful, but not for sleeping. Johnson said parents should ensure their babies have safe sleepwear – and never use cords under a crib mattress or a rug in the nursery.

“We want to make sure cords are uncovered,” Johnson said. “No ignition sources near a crib at all,” including candles and any sort of plugged in item.

For all ages, simply closing the door can be a fire safety measure.

“Having your bedroom door closed is a safe practice for slowing down the spread of fire,” Johnson said.

Children’s rooms should have handles that can be opened by pushing downward, rather than by turning round knobs that can be unwieldly in little hands.

Johnson said families should set up a meeting place outside the home.

“Do practice drills,” he said.

Johnson said parents will need to gauge when their child is old enough to learn a fire escape plan. They should be able to navigate the home, open a door and get to a meeting place.

“You should let the child do it on their own so you can see where they are deficient,” he said. “Stay low and go. Definitely don’t go back in the home. Once you are out, stay out.”

The theme for this year’s Fire Prevention Week is “Every second counts. Plan two ways out.”

“Doors and windows are an obvious choice,” Johnson said.

It is important to regularly check windows to make sure they can open easily. For second floor windows, put a sheet at the window to signify that someone is in the room. Johnson said having a home escape ladder is the best choice for getting out.

“Jump out if necessary,” he said. “Hold on to the sill and kick off and let go. It’s unsafe, but it’s a message we had to give because some people can’t afford a ladder. If you can afford a ladder, that’s the best choice.”

As winter approaches, Johnson said freestanding heaters can be a hazard.

“Use the fuel that the heater calls for,” he said. “Kerosene heaters dry out the air and some people put a bowl of water on it. A lot of fires start by those drying out and then catching on fire.”

Homes should be well ventilated and heaters should have three feet of clearance all around. Electric heaters should have a safety feature that turns them off automatically if they tip over.

Johnson said candles should always be monitored and should never be used in children’s bedrooms.

Use these resources

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There will be a Fire Prevention Carnival Oct. 10-13 at Mauldin Cultural Center in Mauldin. This event, hosted for daycares and schools, educates youth on fire prevention and safety. Want to join in for this fun day of learning? Contact the Fire Department at 864-288-5094 to register.

Community Day is at 11 a.m. Oct. 14 at the Powdersville Volunteer Fire Department. The event will include snow cones, face painting, coloring pages, photo booth, emergency vehicles and free hotdogs. Visit their Facebook page for details.

Spartanburg Fire Department will host its 17th annual open house 2 to 5 p.m. Oct. 15 at Spartanburg City Fire Station 1, 151 South Spring St. Free admission includes food, fire safety information, tours of the Family Safety House, truck tours, games and health information. For more information, call 864-596-2083.

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