The Middletown-Langhorne fire chief is worried about people not conducting fire drills in their homes. With the safety measure becoming less common, Frank Farry joined Pat Wandling for Speak Your Piece to help lay out an action plan.

There are some families who think they know what to do in the event of a surprise incident, but may not execute. Farry explains having a plan is a step in the right direction, but practice makes perfect.

Middletown-Langhorne Fire Chief Frank Farry stands at attention during a procession in 2009. Photo used pending permission.

“Look at athletes, why do they have practice all the time?” Farry said. “It’s muscle memory, it’s just repeating those certain plays so it’s instictual to them. It’s the same thing with the drills.”

There are several steps people should take to make sure they get out safely in the event of a fire. Farry recommends families should have a designated meeting point in the event of a blaze.

“It could be the neighbor’s mailbox, the tree in the front yard,” Farry said. “We discourage backyards only because when we pull up on scene, we’re trying to size up what’s going on. We’re trying to determine if we have entrapment and how many people are entrapped.”

Once safely outside, people should call 911 and report any important details to the dispatcher coherently and answer any questions accurately.

There are also routine check-ups families can do to make sure they are prepared for any growing flames. Checking the batteries on a smoke detector every month will ensure there is not a time when faulty electronics make a bad situation worse.

In reaching out to younger people, Farry tells children to mark their parents’ calendar on the same date as their birthday every month. Someone born on January 14th should circle the 14th day of each month and set some time aside to check the batteries.

Farry also warns against the natural instict to put out a fire during its early stages. He recounted the story of an engaged couple who tried to extinguish a blaze in their entertainment room, but it spread almost instantly.

“Depending on what’s burning, a fire can multiply itself in seconds,” Farry explained. “The first things you need to do is get out and call 911. Your house can get rebuilt, your life can’t.”

Middletown residents can apply for a free smoke alarm at the Safety Education section of the township website. Many local fire companies also have free smoke alarms they will happily distribute to their residents.