Though I have already mentioned the fire inspection in a previous post, I thought that it was worthwhile providing more detail about the experience since fire prevention and preparedness are so important.
A little over a week ago the Fire Inspector–an actual fire fighter from the Baltimore City Fire Department–came to do a walk-through of our home. His focus was both on prevention and escape from fires. He went through the list required by the City of Baltimore Department of Social Services which included having smoke detectors, a fire extinguisher, functioning windows and doors for escape routes, etc., but his real focus was ensuring that our home was safe, not just for the prospective child but for us also. There seems to be a tragic recurrence of home fires in this city. Entire families perish in fires because there are no smoke detectors and no easy escape routes. Often the worst fires are in poorer urban neighborhoods where the properties are not well maintained, generally have double locking doors (requiring a key to enter and exit the door) and have bars on exterior windows as crime deterrents. These kinds of things can be deadly when a fire breaks out. The Fire Inspector stated that in older homes the smoke is particularly bad because of the types of materials that could be burning. Although residents may be able to find their keys to unlock the door or kick out the bars on windows, they often don’t have enough time to escape before being overcome by the smoke.
We had already taken care of everything on the list for the inspection including the double locks before he arrived, but as we went through the house, he asked us to consider making a few additional corrections to our home for added safety. First he noted that the exit from the basement was difficult to open and that the stairwell going out into the backyard was impeded. While the basement is used only for laundry and storage, he suggested that we clear the exit completely so that the quickest means of escape would be available should the stairs be blocked by fire. He also suggested that in addition to the battery operated smoke detector in the stairwell outside of the master bedroom, that we add one inside the master bedroom in case the hard-wired detector failed. We were approved at the conclusion of the inspection and in fact he noted that he did not normally visit homes that were quite so prepared. It was comforting to hear that from a fire fighter. I am already working on the fire inspector’s recommendations and expect to have everything finished by this weekend.
One of the things I noticed that they do not require is a fire escape plan. Because the master bedroom where we all sleep (Dads, Junior and three dogs) is on the third floor and has a steep-sloped roof outside the windows, planning the escape is critical. We decided to purchase an escape ladder that we leave in the bedroom. And while that is fine for us humans it would not do much for our three dogs. I am going to purchase a harness that is normally used to help raise and lower dogs who are having difficulty walking. The idea is that we would use the harness to help the four-legged members of the family escape the fire if we were caught on the third floor.
This inspection was the last real hurdle for us to cross before getting certification.