Do you think about how to get out of your house in case of a fire? Windows are meant to be quick exits, but we block them with burglar bars and window screens that are attached into place.
Listen to your local news on any given evening, and you seem to hear a story of another fire, yet we do not think about fire safety in our own homes. My family has a plan, but I admit that we have not gone over the escape routes since late last year. I know other families who never consider the possibility of fire. Fires seem to surprise us. The other day when I was cooking, I had to move a sauce pan. I had not skimmed the fat off of the meat sauce that I was making. Oil hit the hot electric element, and I had a nice flame. I quickly put out the fire, but what if it had spread? Walking through my neighborhood, I discovered a house that had been destroyed by a fire. I never heard the sirens, or maybe I did, but the sight took me aback. A fire happened that close to my home. Did they escape through a window?
These thoughts color my findings on home inspections. I know that a little thing can appear to be minor, but I run the worst case scenarios in my head. That happened on a recent inspection. I informed my client of a problem; the window screen was screwed into place. I have seen builders do this, and homeowners have done this too. In the picture, you will see the screw most commonly used.
These screws are used when the window screens cover the entire window. Windows are normally designed with a groove to have the screen fit into place. You can find windows with grooves that allow for screens to cover the entire window. Covering the entire window can be a privacy screen, and if the screen material is right, the screen can reflect the UV light to hep with energy efficiency. When the screen covers the full window, the grooves do not hold the screen, so builders and homeowners use these screws. In case of a fire, the screen becomes an obstacle to a fast exit. I pointed this out to my client, and I told him that he would need to punch the screen out. This is possible, but it is a little bit of an effort. The better solution for installing full window screens can be the type of frame. There are frames with springs built into the frame to hold them in place. Tabs on the inside will allow you to lift out the screen quickly. Another option may be a couple of dabs of silicone. Two dabs on the top of the frame of the window screen will hold it into place, but the screen can be easily pushed out.
I have to go over my plans to escape from the house during a fire again. Certain changes have happened to the home over the last year. I am particularly worried about my daughters. Their room has the hardest escape route, but not impossible. Practicing exiting the home, and going to the meeting place is needed. Little children feel more comfortable with the plans when we practice. The neighbors may stare again; thinking this exercise strange; but I would rather my family be safe than be concerned with their stares. Part of the practice does involve checking if the window screens come out easily. I also check escape routes. Keep your family safe. Check your home.