After a tragic fire broke out in Noyac, the tragedy sheds light on fire safety precautions people should consider before unpacking their bags in an unfamiliar room or home and in general.
When the Noyac fire broke out, a family of five from Maryland was on vacation, renting a single-family home. The Aug. 3 fire, in the early morning hours, claimed the lives of sisters Jillian Wiener, 21, and Lindsay Weiner, 19. Their parents Lewis and Alisa and their 23-year-old brother Zachary were able to escape with non-life-threatening injuries.
Town of Huntington chief fire marshal, Terry McNally, said in an email to TBR News Media, that residents should “make sure your home conforms to the state fire code and building code, including functioning smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.”
“Each bedroom must have a smoke detector,” he added. “There must be a means of egress to get outside from each bedroom and hallway on each level, and there must be a carbon monoxide detector on each level within 15 feet of each bedroom.”
Christopher Mehrman, chief fire marshal for the Town of Brookhaven Division of Fire Prevention, agreed and said in a phone interview it’s important to ensure a rental property follows the same codes.
The marshal added it’s important to ensure there are detectors on each floor.
“You want that early warning to be able to get out if there’s a fire,” Mehrman said.
Staying at a private home that may be included on a website such as Airbnb is different from being at a hotel and motel where they must meet stricter codes that marshals enforce, Mehrman said. He added while some municipalities might regulate Airbnbs and inspections are done, they are not as extensive as ones for corporate properties.
Mehrman said the first thing to do when vacationing anywhere is to check that there are smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and test them to see if they are working.
“If you’re in doubt, bring your own,” he said.
Many times he has conducted investigations where it’s found that the detectors aren’t working properly. He said systems that go to a central station also have a button to be able to test them.
Both fire marshals added that it’s important for people to ensure they know all the ways out of a home or building in the case of a hotel or motel. Their advice is to check for exits and for people to familiarize themselves with egress paths, including stairwells.
Mehrman added to make sure that windows do open. He said when he travels, he finds the emergency exits and counts the number of doors to the exit from his room.
“In a smoke condition in a hallway, you’re going to be down on the floor crawling to get to the exit, and that way you can count the number of doors,” Mehrman said.
When visiting hotels and motels, he also checks emergency exit doors to ensure they aren’t locked, and stairwells lead to a door outside the building.
Regarding vacationing at a private home, Mehrman said, remember not all homes are set up the same.
“Some of these houses are very large,” he said. “You don’t know what the owner has done to the house. They may have sectioned off part of it because they don’t want people in that part of the house.”
He added not to be afraid to escape from a second-floor window as the fall is not as far as it looks, especially if one dangles from the window first.
Most of all, Mehrman said always be aware that there should be a meeting spot for everyone, and people should not run back in to save anyone or pets. Fire victims also should wait until they escape the fire before calling 911.
“Evacuating everybody is the most important thing,” he said.