Last year, more than 1.3 million fires were reported by fire departments, according to the National Fire Protection Association, resulting in in an estimated 3,655 civilian deaths and more than 15,000 injuries. As part of its community risk reduction program, Fort Belvoir Fire and Emergency Services is going door-to-door in all villages to inspect each home for fire safety issues. The ongoing voluntary home inspections continue Saturdays through mid-November. According to Fire Marshall Philip Neith, a fatal house fire in 2011 prompted the Fort Belvoir Fire Department to annually inspect every home on post, and confirm the status of critical safety equipment.
Each engine company has been assigned a block of homes to visit, to speak with the residents and inspect key components in the house.
Firefighter Adam Stover, inspecting homes in Dogue Creek Village, said the Saturday safety visits are brief, but quite important.
“We are out here this morning to give families fire safety information and check their smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to see if they’re working, and checking dryer vents and fire extinguishers,” he said.
Fort Belvoir Fire Chief Shane Crutcher says the inspections are creating safer homes.
“We are finding that several smoke detectors in family housing need replacing. This can be due to age or needing new batteries. As we conduct the home safety inspections we are correcting as many of the problems as we find on the spot.”
According to the NFPA, cooking equipment is the leading cause of fires and injuries in the home, which is why your fire extinguisher is mounted in the kitchen. Firefighter Patrick Lynch said every home on Belvoir is equipped with a fire extinguisher, and residents should know where it is, how to use it, and how to check it.
Practice quick escapes
For residents who are not home, the inspection teams leave behind educational materials from the Red Cross, including a form that helps you create, and draw, escape routes, in case of fire. These escape routes are important, because people may have only one or two minutes to get out of a house, once a fire starts. The escape routes should be discussed as a family, and practiced by everyone a couple times each year, with an agreed meeting point outside the home.
FBFES Fire Prevention Specialist Larry Shinn says if residents who weren’t available during inspections would still like a visit, they can schedule a quick, fire-safety inspection.
“We’ve given families multiple ways for us to inspect, whether it’s door-to-door on the weekends or using the hyperlink on housing’s website to schedule a specific time. They can opt for an inspection during normal business hours the first two weeks of October,” he said.
Home fire safety is a never-ending effort, and Shinn said residents can call the fire department’s non-emergency number, 703-805-1443, any time, to schedule an inspection.