CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) –
There are countless products on the market designed to save the lives of you and your loved ones in the event of a fire.
But do these products work as advertised?
And would you know how to use them in an emergency?
Research shows that 30 years ago, you had about 17 minutes to escape a fire in your home.
Today, with the quick-burning synthetic materials used to build and furnish homes, that window is just 3 minutes.
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With the help of the Parma Fire Department, we tested three different products designed to help people and pets escape in a fire emergency: a hand-held breathing system, a portable escape ladder, and a baby evacuation bag.
In a simulated fire at Cuyahoga County Community College’s Fire Training Academy in Parma, we recreated the smoky conditions that exist during an actual fire. We used the second floor of Tri-C’s burn tower to demonstrate a two story escape ladder made by Kidde.
The lightweight 13-foot ladder attaches to most windows, features anti-slip rungs and supports up to 1,000 pounds. It is available in stores and online, and currently retails for $32.77 on Amazon. Kidde also manufactures a three story escape ladder, which is 25-feet long.
As I scaled down the ladder from the second floor window, the fire-resistant ladder swung back and forth and side to side as I tried to gain my footing. After my second and third try, it got increasingly easier as I got more comfortable with the ladder. It took me about 20 seconds to escape our simulated fire.
“Is this something that maybe you should practice a few times before you have a fire?” I asked Parma Fire’s T.J. Martin.
“It might be worthwhile, because everybody has a significant fear of heights when they’re first stepping out on that unknown,’ Martin said. “We always encourage families to practice what they would do in an emergency inside of a home should a fire occur.”
One observation I made while climbing down the ladder is that it would be extremely challenging to descend with an infant or small child in your arms.
After witnessing desperate parents throw their babies and young children out of windows during fires, Washington State firefighter Lt. Rick Peters came up with the idea for BabyRescue, a special bag that could safely evacuate small children and pets trapped on upper floors during a fire.
“We had seen this happen on television, we had seen it on calls, and wondered what could we come up with to make it easier to get a baby out of an upper-floor window instead of dropping them out and having someone try to catch them,” says Peters.
The BabyRescue Rapid Evacuation Device is made from the same materials used in emergency response equipment. The soft bag features a breathable mesh side, can hold up to 75 pounds and features a 60 foot, non-slip grip line safe up to five stories. There is also a version of the bag for pets. The bags cost $119.95 each and can be purchased BabyRescue’s website or Amazon.
To demonstrate BabyRescue, we enlisted the help of Dawn, a mother of two, whose children sleep on the second floor of their Cleveland home.
We loaded the bag with two 10 pound bags of rice, the approximate weight on an infant child.
As Dawn placed the bag over her 2-year-old daughter’s bedroom window, and began to unreal the 60-foot grip line, the bag steadily dropped to the ground below. Our bags of rice were still intact.
“It was easy. The two bags of are actually five pounds more than what my youngest weights,” says Dawn. “The grips are really nice knowing that if it does get stuck or too heavy, I can just grab that grip really fast.”
Lt. Peters says the bag was actually used in an actual home fire in Houston, Texas, and helped save the life of young child.
“It’s about getting one of these in the hands of every parent living in an upper-floor home or apartment,” says Peters. “It’s not about the profit, it’s about saving babies and we’re offering that piece of mind to families in case the worst happens.”
Most of us have smoke alarms (if you don’t, you should), but what happens after they go off?
When trained firefighters enter a burning home, their portable air supply is their best friend. But until they get there, you’re on your own.
You’ve probably heard that it’s the smoke, not the fire, that’s necessarily going to kill you. Eighty percent of fire deaths are due to smoke inhalation.
Makers of the Saver Emergency Breath System by SAFETYiQ claim the device can prevent the inhalation of smoke and toxic gases during a fire for up to 5 minutes, giving you and your family the time you need to escape safely.
“What this does is allows a few minutes to be able to filter air, breathable air, as you’re exiting your home,” explained Parma Fire’s T.J. Martin, before we tested out the Saver device.
There are several versions of the Saver Emergency Breath System available, including portable one and two person units, a portable two person set with an alarm and flashlight, and a wall-mounted four-person set with an alarm and flashlight.
The products, which are designed for a single use, range in price from $69 to $269 on SAFETYiQ’s website. The one-person unit currently retails for $46.79 on Amazon.
I found the canister a bit challenging to figure out at first, but once we got a working knowledge of the breathing tool, we returned to the burn house to test it out in a simulated fire.
I followed the directions, which instructed me to snap off the cover and remove the air shut-off cap.
I detached the nose grip, which is supposed to prevent me from breathing in smoke and toxins, and put it over my nose.
Then I bit into the mouthpiece, which resembles a sports mouth guard, and started breathing into the triple-filter canister.
From my personal experience, the Saver Emergency Breath System seemed to work.
I couldn’t smell or taste any of the non-toxic smoke we used for the test.
It wasn’t like having a full blown oxygen mask, but in theory, it should provide you enough clean air for an escape.
“It’s probably not even close to what we wear when we go in a fire, however we’re in there for a prolonged period of time. This is designed to help you get out and get out quickly,” Martin said.
One thing I noticed after testing these three products: if you don’t know how to work this equipment, or any other fire evacuation products, they probably aren’t going to do you any good.
“You probably need to familiarize yourself with the instructions way ahead of time,” Martin said.
He also recommends families create and practice a fire escape plan.