How to Prepare for a Fire Emergency
Time Required: Under 2 hours
According to the National Fire Protection Association, home structure fires caused an annual average of $6.5 billion in property damage and 2,560 civilian fire deaths from 2012-2016. Learn how to prepare for a fire emergency to protect your home and know what to do in case of fire. In addition to making a plan and acquiring proper fire safety equipment, you should take steps to reduce the chances of fire emergencies breaking out in the first place.
Make a plan for how your family can escape your house in case of a serious fire.
- Begin by making a diagram of the house or apartment building and identifying two escape routes from every room, such as by a door and by a window.
- Teach children what the smoke or carbon monoxide alarms sound like and how to react to them, especially if a fire breaks out in the middle of the night.
- During an evacuation, if you suspect a fire is on other side of a closed door, feel the top, edge and doorknob for heat. If hot to the touch, do not open, but use the secondary exit. Never open a hot door during a fire.
- If you have to go through a smoky room or hallway, cover your nose and mouth and keep low to the ground to prevent smoke inhalation. The best air is 1 to 2 feet above the floor.
- Remember to stop, drop and roll if your clothes catch on fire.
- Include house pets in your escape plan.
- Make sure the escape plan includes a safe place for meeting outside the house, such as by the mailbox, and designate someone to call the emergency services.
- Once you’ve left a burning house, don’t go back in, just wait for the local fire department.
- Stage regular drills to ensure your family's emergency preparedness.
- Post the plan in a clearly visible place, such as the kitchen.
More than half of all residential fire fatalities occur in homes without smoke detectors, so make sure your home is properly equipped.
- Install smoke alarms on every floor of the house and in each bedroom.
- Smoke rises, so place smoke alarms high on walls or on ceilings.
- Change batteries every year or immediately when the low battery signal begins to chirp. Definitely do not disable a chirping alarm with the intention of replacing the new battery later: you might forget, placing your home in jeopardy.
- Choose a day every year for changing the smoke alarm batteries, such as the autumn day when Daylight Savings Time “falls back" and you reset your clocks.
Tip: Install carbon monoxide detectors in all of your home’s major rooms, between knee and chest height.
Keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen and at least one for each floor of your home. Familiarize yourself with the rating system of home fire extinguishers before acquiring one:
- Fire extinguishers with a Class A rating are effective against paper, wood, textiles and plastics.
- Fire extinguishers with a Class B rating are effective against flammable liquid fires that may involve cooking oil, gasoline, paint or other substances.
- Fire extinguishers with a Class C rating are effective against “live” electrical equipment.
To properly operate a fire extinguisher, remember the acronym “PASS,” for:
- Pull the pin to release the lock, pointing the nozzle away from you;
- Aim the extinguisher low, at the base of the fire;
- Squeeze the lever slowly and carefully;
- Sweep the nozzle from side to side.
Tip: Mount fire extinguishers 4 to 5 feet from the floor to be in easy reach. Do not store a fire extinguisher close to the stove.
If your home has more than one story, you should have an escape ladder in each top-story room.
- Store the ladders next to windows for easy access and make sure young people, the elderly and people with disabilities can use them or have a contingency plan.
- Make sure that windows and screens open easily and are not painted shut.
Inspect your house to eliminate or reduce potential fire hazards.
- Make sure electrical outlets are not overloaded or exceed the safe number of plugs in use (especially at Christmas or other holidays).
- Make sure power cords, extension cords and other wiring is not frayed, damaged or improperly placed.
- Dryer ducts should be cleaned annually to avoid the accumulation of flammable lint.
- Gasoline and other flammable liquids should be stored in containers such as gas cans and only in appropriate areas.
- Chimneys should be inspected annually and cleaned regularly to avoid buildup of flammable creosote.
- Make sure that space heaters are used according to instructions.
- Store matches, lighters cigarettes and other smoking accessories out of reach of children.
Learning how to prepare for a fire emergency is essential to make sure you can keep your loved ones – and yourself – as safe as possible.