Almost 14,000 people were injured in home fires last year. Over 2,000 died.* My family was not any of those, not last night.
At 2:30 a.m., two upstairs smoke detectors belted out their disturbing song and woke me in time to find a candle burning in the hall bathroom, its wax melted far enough down that the decorative twine wrapping had begun to burn. Even though the flame created enough smoke to set off the smoke alarms, it was small enough to blow out.
Sleepy, not-very-coherent children scrambled from beds. The dog raced behind me, circling at my heels. The alarms were silenced within a few minutes. A quick talk about candles pulled a shocked (and guilty) look from one of the kids. Hugs, kisses and back-to-bed-with-you’s, and I was back in my own bed.
My hands still trembling, thoughts racing, I breathed a prayer of thanks. What if Mike had come home tomorrow from his business trip, and we were gone? What if the smoke detectors hadn’t been so sensitive or the flame so easy to extinguish? I ran our reactions to the alarms through my mental simulator: how had we done? Were we ready for something more serious?
Of the 2,520 home-fire deaths last year, 62% of them occurred in homes without working smoke detectors, a sobering reminder of just how important it is to have them. But it’s an equally sobering reminder that the remaining 38% of fatalities must have occurred in homes that did have working smoke detectors. Though I am very grateful for them, they are not a guarantee of survival. It could have gone worse for us. By the grace of God, it didn’t.
Do you have smoke detectors? Are your batteries charged and working? Are you and your family prepared with a plan for getting to safety if smoke or fire obstructs the normal exits? I got my reminder at 2:30 this morning. And I hope my reminder can serve as yours too.
*Statistics for the U.S. according to the National Fire Protection Agency (2011)