Firefighter develops simple device that gives children a helping hand in case of a fire
by Jennifer Cohron
Oct 17, 2010 | 2230 views | 0 0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Capt. Greg Lawler, a 24-year veteran firefighter in Texas, thought fire drills were enough to keep his family safe. Then his young daughter proved him wrong.

Lawler taught his daughters, Hannah and Olivia, the same two options he had given thousands of other kids for escaping from a house fire — the front door or a window.

However, he discovered during a routine drill that 6-year-old Olivia could not get out of her bedroom window.

“It was kind of an embarrassment to me because with my first child, I didn’t actually make her go through the window. Had I done that, I think I would have found this much earlier,” Lawler said.

After telling Olivia that conditions at the front door were too bad, Lawler walked outside expecting that she would need help getting to the ground.

Instead, he was surprised to see her struggling to get the window open. Olivia was not strong enough to open the window with the metal lift rail attached to the glass.

Her older sister was able to help her, but Lawler wondered what would happen if Hannah was not there when a fire started.

He asked a friend to make a metal handle that he attached to the lift rail so Olivia could get more leverage and use her hand instead of just her fingers to open the window.

The new device solved Olivia’s problem.

Afterward, Lawler had Olivia’s friends try to open the window when they were at the house for sleepovers and asked other parents to test their children as well. He learned quickly that Olivia was not alone.

Lawler has now formed Hand2Live Inc. and patented the device that can help children as well as seniors open windows in an emergency.

Each handles costs $9.95 and fits the lift rail or ledge of most windows. Handles for wood windows without a lift or ledge are also available.

“It doesn’t do any permanent damage to the window. It has a very strong grip and it’s easy to install,” Lawler said.

A portion of Hand2Live’s profits go to Parkland Burn Center for fire prevention education, burn treatment advancements and sending children who have suffered burn injuries to attend a special summer camp.

Lawler’s mission is to save lives and bring awareness about the importance of having multiple exits in case of fire.

He said most dwellings have just two exterior doors but many more windows.

“In fire fatalities, 60 percent are found trying to escape. A majority are found near the front door. I’m hoping our product encourages people to stop passing windows by,” Lawler said.

The U.S. Fire Administration reports that between 3,000 and 5,000 people die in residential structure fires in the United States each year. More than 800 are children. Adults 65 and older account for almost a third of fire casualties annually.

Lawler said more people must take precautions to protect themselves during fires instead of relying on firefighters to rescue them.

In addition to an exit strategy, Lawler also suggested having working smoke detectors that are replaced every 10 years.

“A fire has occurred before we (firefighters) start into motion. I have to drive all the way to your house, hoping and praying. That doesn’t work very well when experts say you have three minutes to escape from a flaming house fire,” Lawler said.

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