Home fires can start and spread very quickly. If your home was to catch fire, you may have only two minutes for your whole family to escape. As scary as it is to think about, having a fire safety plan in place is of paramount importance. Putting thought into your fire escape plan and practicing it with your family may one day save your lives.
The key to fire safety is to minimize risks. This means making sure everything is in place to stop a fire before it starts and to alert you as quickly as possible if it should.
Obviously setting up smoke alarms is vital, and they should be on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Ensure alarms are tested once a month and batteries changed as often as necessary. The National Fire Protection Association also suggests interconnecting the alarms so that if one is set off, they all sound. And remember to replace smoke detectors at least every ten years.
Cooking is one of the main causes of house fires, so it is vitally important to remain vigilant when in the kitchen. Keep anything flammable away from your stovetop to decrease the likelihood of fire. Never operate your stove or oven if inebriated or otherwise impaired. Stay close by if you are frying, boiling, grilling or broiling food. Never leave it unattended. If you are baking or roasting, be sure to check the food regularly and remain in or near the kitchen. Use a timer to remind you.
Heating is the second leading cause of house fires. The Red Cross offers some great suggestions on how to keep safe around heat sources. Remember to keep all flammable items away from your heater, stove or fireplace. Never leave portable heaters or fireplaces unattended– be sure to turn them off or that all embers are extinguished before leaving a room. Never set a space heater on a flammable surface like a rug or a carpet. If buying a portable heater, look for those that have automatic turn-off features.
Bad electric cords can create problems for you that may lead to fire. Check your electronics for cracked or damaged wires, broken plugs or loose connections. Always unplug anything that does not need to be plugged in.
Make a Routine
A quick check list to help you is as follows:
- Close inside doors at night to stop a fire from spreading.
- Turn off and unplug electrical appliances unless they are designed to be left on – like your freezer.
- Check your stove is turned off.
- Don’t leave the washing machine on.
- Turn heaters off and put up fireguards.
- Put candles and cigarettes out properly.
- Make sure exits are kept clear.
- Keep door and window keys where everyone can find them.
Turning your list into a night time routine is a great idea so that you don’t forget any part of it.
How to Create an Escape Plan
Fire is very unpredictable. No matter where it starts in the home, it can move quickly and move in ways you can’t anticipate. Creating an escape plan is crucial to give everyone the best chance of survival.
Remember, you have less than two minutes to get everyone safe and out of the home once a fire starts. According to SafeKids.org, in 2017, 268 children died in home fires. In the same year, worldwide 27,000 children died due to fire or burns.
Having a working smoke alarm is only one part of the picture. Implementing a thoughtful fire escape plan and practicing it regularly will help to prepare your family in the worst case scenario.
- Begin by drawing a simple map of your home, including the outside.
- Plan two different ways to escape from each room in the home
- Ensure that all doors and windows leading out of the house can open easily and that the children know how to do so
- Identify backup routes for cases where normal escape is not possible
- If you live in a multistory building, make sure to always use the stairs and NEVER the elevator
- Pick an outdoor meeting area that is a safe distance from the house and let everyone know to meet there
Once you have your plan made, it is important to practice it with your family. It is no good to put the effort into creating it if you don’t make it actionable. Practicing it will also help you to identify issues BEFORE you are put in a real situation.
The NFPA shows that 71% of Americans have a home fire escape plan, but only 47% have practiced it. This is incredibly important, even if it feels silly. Much like school fire drills, a home drill should be practiced twice a year, at night and during the day. All residents should participate.
- getting out with your eyes closed, crawling low to the floor with your mouth covered
- closing doors behind you as you move through the house
- testing door handles to see if they are hot before you open them
Make sure everyone knows how to “stop, drop and roll” if their clothing catches on fire. And be extra sure to teach your children NEVER to hide during a fire. They need to be able to escape on their own in the event that a parent can not help them.
Also, remember to teach them that if a fire occurs in your home, GET OUT, STAY OUT and CALL FOR HELP. Never go back inside for anything or anyone.
Did you know…?
- You’re twice as likely to die in a fire if you don’t have a smoke alarm that works.
- 90 people die each year because the battery in their smoke alarm was flat or missing.
- Over half of home fires are caused by cooking accidents.
- More than five fires a day are started by candles.
- Every three days someone dies from a fire caused by a cigarette.
- Faulty electronics (appliances, wiring and overloaded sockets) cause around 7,000 house fires across the country every year.
For the sake of your family and especially those of us with young children, it is important to remember what YOU can do in order to help prevent a fire-related catastrophe. If you haven’t spoken to your kids about what to do in the event of a fire, do it now!
Remember that your family’s lives are in your hands. And if that’s not enough of an incentive, how would you feel to lose everything you own? From valuable possessions to photos and memorabilia…
Even if a fireman comes to your rescue and gets you and your family out safely, they may not be able to save your home.
Be proactive. Take action. Do your part.
This post was originally published February 27, 2012.