After Thursday's storm, it's happening in almost every neighborhood — front or back doors are snowed in, making getting out quickly next to impossible.
Maine Fire Marshal Joseph E. Thomas issued a recommendation Friday. “Make sure all your doorways are shoveled out.”
Historically, firefighters run into a number of circumstances when people's secondary means of exit is blocked by piles of unshoveled snow, Thomas said.
Typically, most residents use their back door as the primary means of entering and exiting their home. The front door is often reserved for guests.
When there's a fire, that prevents someone from getting out the usual way — through their back door. The unshoveled front door can mean a person can get trapped and die, Thomas said. “We average 20 to 25 fire fatalities a year, and the vast majority are single-family homes.”
Not enough people consider that the outer storm door typically swings outward. “So as soon as you've got snow, which becomes ice, and you push that door, it doesn't open. Consequently, your secondary means of exit is cut off,” Thomas said.
Often wood or pellet stoves are located in kitchens or places that, if there's a fire, could block the normal exit.
Because the heating season is the fire season, Thomas recommended in addition to keeping all exit paths clear, residents should have working smoke detectors and an exit plan.
Auburn fire Chief Frank Roma agreed. A door covered with snow “is certainly a concern.” Keeping all exits free of ice and snow not only makes the home safer in case of fire, it minimizes slips and falls, Roma said.
Another thing residents can do to help out emergency workers, Roma said, “is adopt a fire hydrant.”
If there's a fire hydrant near your home covered with snow from the town or city plow, “dig it out,” he explained. That would help emergency workers locate it and tap water in case of an emergency, Roma said.