Security bars can help our family be safe, but did you know they can also trap you inside during a fire?

Security bars can help our family be safe, but did you know they can also trap you inside during a fire?

Although in recent years, deaths by fires have declined, there has been a dramatic increase in the number and percentage of fire deaths attributed to blocked exits because of security measures intended to protect occupants and their possessions.

The fear of being a victim of crime drives many people to install security bars and other devices on their windows and doors without considering how they will escape if there is a fire.

While they can lock criminals out, home security bars can just as effectively lock residents in and keep firefighters out in an emergency.

Ensure your safety by following these tips when using window and door security bars in your home:

* Know two ways out of every room: one normal route through hallways and stairways and one alternative route through windows or onto the roof.

* Use emergency release devices that have been listed or approved by a nationally recognized research lab like the Underwriters Laboratories inside all barred doors and windows.

Quick release mechanisms for security bars enable the user to push the bars open from the inside without affecting the security they afford from the outside.

These devices can involve pulling a lever, pushing a button, stepping on a pedal or kicking in a lever on the floor.

* Practice your home fire escape plan and make sure that everyone in the household can operate the quick release mechanisms.

If young children, older adults, or people with disabilities need extra help with the devices, designate a member of the household to help them, and decide on back-ups in the event that the designated person isn't home.

* Have working smoke alarms and test them monthly.

Washington Township Fire Department Fire Marshal Alan Perkins submitted the Smoke Signals column.