Is Your Family Prepared for a House Fire?
Does a house fire seem like an unlikely event? In 2021, the US Fire Administration (USFA) reported 353,500 residential building fires, costing nearly $9 billion in damages and claiming the lives of more than 2,800 people. While the likelihood of a fire in your home may be low, it isn’t impossible. And if it does occur, your preparedness can make the difference between life and death for you and your family. Keep reading to see if your family is prepared for a house fire.
How Safe is Your House?
There is no time when the adage, “An ounce of prevention…” rings truer than when you are considering how to prevent a house fire. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), five main causes account for most of the home fires that occur:
- Heating equipment (furnaces, space heaters, and chimneys)
- Electrical distribution (improper electrical installation or repair, overloaded circuits)
- Intentional fire-setting (internal fires)
- Smoking materials
Next, lower your risk of a cooking fire by keeping flammable objects away from the stove and using extreme care when working with your stove or oven. Keep your heating equipment in top condition with regular cleaning and maintenance to reduce the risk of a fire starting in a furnace or chimney.
Inspect your wiring and outlets regularly and get rid of frayed or damaged wires right away. Don’t overload any of your outlets, and use extension cords with extreme care. Follow operating instructions for any electrical appliances, lamps, or other items.
Educate children about the risks of experimenting or playing with matches or lighters. Keep these items safely out of the reach of young hands. If you have smokers in your home, encourage them to smoke outdoors and use deep, sturdy ashtrays for cigarette butts. No one should be allowed to smoke in bed or after taking medication.
Fireproof Your Treasures
A fire is not the time to be collecting important documents and family heirlooms, so safeguard them now so you won’t have to worry about it later. Create an emergency binder with birth and marriage certificates, account information, insurance paperwork, and passports. Keep this binder in a fireproof box in your home or store it in a safe deposit box at your local bank.
If you have heirlooms you can’t bear the thought of losing, consider keeping these items in a fireproof box or safe as well. Back up all your photos to a cloud service and make duplicates of important papers or take photos of them so they won’t be lost in the event of a fire.
Equip Your Home for a Fire
To ensure you are ready for any type of fire that could occur in your home, collect the following equipment and check it regularly to make sure it remains in working order:
- Fire Extinguishers (keep at least one on each level of your home, with one mounted in your kitchen away from the oven)
- Smoke Detectors (install on every level, with one in each bedroom and outside every sleeping area)
- Carbon Monoxide Detector (install in a central location and outside each sleeping area)
- Fire Escape Ladder (store next to a window in each top story room)
- Fire Blanket (keep in kitchen to put over the stove or oven in case of a kitchen fire)
Create a Fire Escape Plan
Every family member should know your fire preparedness plan, including escape routes and a meeting spot outside the home. Determine how you will exit your home, with at least two ways to escape from each room in your house. Designate a central location where family members can gather, and be sure everyone in your home knows how to call 9-1-1 if a fire does break out.
Once you create your plan, practice it regularly, like a fire drill in a school or office building. During your practice session, review the principles of stop, drop, and roll so your family knows what to do if their clothing catches on fire. Review the details of your plan to determine if you need to make any adjustments based on changes to your home or family.
Your Home Fire Safety Schedule
Once you have all your steps and equipment in place, create a yearly schedule to keep everything current and operational. Your schedule could look something like this:
- Test all smoke detectors. If they are not working, change the batteries or replace the device.
- Test your carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they are still operational.
- Review your family’s escape plan, including how to call 9-1-1.
- Remind children of the dangers of matches and lighters, and keep them out of reach.
- Make sure all fire extinguishers are charged and ready to use.
- Inspect all flammable liquids to be sure they are properly stored.
- Inspect outlets and electrical wires to avoid overloaded circuits and damaged wires.
- Check fireplaces and chimneys for damage or obstructions.
- Stage a fire drill, so your family can practice the escape plan.
- Change batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors if necessary.
- Test all fire extinguishers as recommended by the manufacturer.
Annually (Or Longer)
- Clean dryer ducts to avoid accumulation of lint.
- Inspect and clean chimneys, furnaces, and coal stoves.
- Have fire extinguishers inspected per the manufacturer instructions.
- Replace smoke detectors every 10 years or as recommended by the manufacturer.
Final Facts You Need to Know
The Department of Homeland Security has provided a few final reminders about fire that you can review with your family monthly when you talk through your escape plan:
- It only takes 30 seconds for a small flame to become a major fire.
- Fires can reach 100 degrees at floor level and 600 degrees at eye level.
- Fire produces black smoke that can quickly lead to total darkness.
- Fire creates poisonous gas that is more deadly than the flames themselves.
The steps you take to prevent a house fire can keep your family safer. If a fire does occur, knowing how to respond quickly can make a difference. Take fire danger seriously and protect yourself and your loved ones if disaster ever strikes.
Zack Zarrilli, Founder of SureFire CPR, spent 15 years as a firefighter and paramedic. Too often, Zack would arrive on the scene of someone unconscious, surrounded by friends and family members of the victim who felt simply helpless. Sometimes, these bystanders were CPR-certified but lacked the confidence and experience to act. This is why Zack started SureFire CPR. The classes are practical and engaging, teaching crucial skills a person would need to have in order to confidently administer CPR. SureFire CPR teaches its students what to do and how to feel empowered enough to take action.