By the Fire Dog, as interpreted by Patrick Reitz, Idyllwild Fire Chief

This year’s theme is “Have 2 Ways Out.” This is to emphasize that you need to have two ways to get out of a fire, particularly a house fire — but it is of no use if you do not practice.

You should also know your ways out at your workplace or any place that you might visit, such as a hotel, the mall, etc.

Would you know how to get out if there was an emergency? Where are the closest exits? What if that exit is blocked? We tend to take it for granted that we are generally safe most places, but what about all those times the news reports that we hear about? A shooting, an earthquake, an explosion, a collapse?

Let’s take it one step further. Think about the evacuation route from your house or workplace. I am amazed at the number of people that only know one way to and from their home or workplace. Look around and become familiar with several different ways to evacuate in your vehicle.

Have a safe place to gather and get a head count of everyone who was home at the time (this goes for businesses as well). Go to the location you have designated to make the call to 9-1-1. Do not stop to fight the fire, call 9-1-1, or look for the pets — stick to the plan.

Never re-enter the area you just left for any reason. That’s the fire department’s role. Remember you are only as good as you practice; and, as we all know, practice makes perfect.

It would not be Fire Prevention Week if I did not mention smoke detectors.

If you have a detector that was purchased recently, it may have a 10-year battery included — but it should still be checked.

If you have an older smoke detector, change the battery every six months. Use the semi-annual daylight time changes or other significant dates as a reminder to service your detectors.

Use no less than an alkaline battery, and consider upgrading to a lithium battery for longer battery life. If you have an electric smoke detector hard-wired into your residence, install a battery-powered one for back-up. Not all electric smoke detectors have battery backups.

If your smoke detector is more than 10 years old, it should be replaced with a new detector because the detector’s abilities may no longer be effective.

Vacuum out your smoke detectors regularly. This removes dust, dirt, spiders, and insects that may have settled in the detector and may hinder the operation of the detector.

Check your detectors weekly! Make it a part of your regular routine like taking out the garbage, calling your friends or family, or whatever your weekly routine may be; but just make it part of that routine.

There is no need to purchase the aerosol cans of “testing smoke“, just push and hold the button.

Smoke detectors need to be placed as high as possible to give you the earliest warning, preferably on the ceiling. There should be one in every bedroom, in the hall outside the bedrooms, and at least one on every floor. Use a detector specifically designed for kitchen use for placement in that area (you won’t have to worry about the burnt toast).

For those of you with children, it has been found that normal smoke detectors may not be enough. Consider getting a detector for your children’s rooms that allows you to record your voice. Studies have found that children may not wake up or recognize the sound from sleep of a smoke detector going off.

Don’t be a statistic, have a working smoke detector!

If you have need assistance checking your detector, changing the batteries, or just have questions, call your local fire department.

Do you have a wood or pellet stove? Do you use propane, natural gas, or kerosene for anything indoors? Do you have an attached garage? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you should have a Carbon Monoxide (CO) detector.

If you don’t, do so, now. It could save your life. It did save mine. We had a plugged screen that caused the exhaust to back-up into the house. The smoke detector never sounded.

It wasn’t smoky, but the house was full of CO. With a 99.4 percent accuracy rating, if you have a CO detector activation, evacuate the building and call 9-1-1. This is not an alarm because someone burnt some toast (CO detectors don’t work like that), there is a problem, and it could be life threatening.

When you purchase a CO detector, please be sure and thoroughly read the instructions. These do not work like a smoke detector, and require placement and servicing different than that of a smoke detector.

Like a smoke detector, be sure and have a battery back-up if the detector is electrical. It is also recommended that you purchase a CO detector that has a digital readout.

Please note that several models of CO detectors were recalled in the past. If you have an older CO detector, check to see if it is part of the recall.

Help us find you! Is your address visibly posted? Is it reflective? Near the road and visible if approached from all directions?

Not having a readily identifiable address sign can cause a delay in finding the emergency. Every second counts in an emergency!

The Fire District can help. Contact the District office at (951) 659-2153 to learn more.

I am off to go play with Sparky, the National Fire Prevention Dog. …

Remember to play it safe in all that you do!