Fires can destroy homes and end lives in a matter of minutes. Knowing what to do in a fire is absolutely crucial. Read on for essential fire safety tips everyone needs to know.
What to Do in a House Fire
- Try to stay low. Drop to the floor and crawl underneath any smoke as you make your way toward an exit. This is because smoke rises and the most dangerous and poisonous gases are found higher up in the room.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a piece of clothing or fabric to prevent smoke inhalation. Tie the cloth around the back of your head so you don’t need to hold it in place.
- Stay away from rooms that contain lots of fabrics, upholstery, or other items that are likely to catch fire quickly. Such rooms are among the most dangerous places during a house fire.
- Always check doors and doorknobs before entering a room. If the knob feels hot or you can see smoke under the door, opt for another way out.
- If you do have to open a door, make sure to do so slowly, and be prepared to close the door quickly if any flames or smoke come out.
- If someone is trapped in the home, and you can’t reach them, get yourself out first and call 9-1-1. Inform the fire department that a person is trapped and tell them why. This also applies to pets.
- If you’re unable to leave the home, close yourself in a room, cover any cracks or gaps around the door, as well as A/C vents, and call 9-1-1. Use your phone, a flashlight, or anything else nearby to signal for help at the window.
- If your clothes catch fire, the best thing to do is drop to the floor immediately. Use your hands to protect your face and roll back and forth until the flames are extinguished. You can also try to smother the flames using some cloth or a towel.
- Soothe any burns with cool water and cover them with a clean cloth until emergency workers can treat you.
How to Prepare for a Fire
- Create a Fire Escape Plan for your family so that everyone knows what to do during a fire and how to survive a fire if it breaks out. Your plan should be clear for all to understand, it’s worth practicing the plan twice per year.
- Go through each room of the house and think about what to do if there is a fire. Try to identify the risks and dangers of each room and look for at least two ways out of it.
- Check all the windows in your house. It’s important for fire safety at home that windows are all able to be opened and not stuck or jammed, as this could make it harder for people to escape.
- Another useful home fire safety exercise is to try feeling your way through the rooms and out of the house with your eyes closed or with all the lights turned off.
- Teach children essential home fire safety tips and how to survive a house fire. Make sure they know that firefighters are there to help them and they shouldn’t be afraid, and show them what a fire or smoke alarm sounds like so that they know how to react if they hear that noise.
- Make sure that children and all other members of the family know the ‘Stop, Drop, and Roll’ fire safety steps to extinguish any flames if they catch fire. Also, ensure that everyone knows they should stay low when leaving the house and try to escape as quickly as possible.
Here’s a great video guide on Junior Fire Safety and ‘Stop,Drop, & Roll’ by San Jose Fire Department.
Fire Safety Tips at Home
- Always ensure that you have a functioning and ready-to-use fire extinguisher somewhere in the house. The kitchen is usually the best place to store it, as this is where many fires start.
- If you use space heaters or similar items, be careful when using them and keep them clear from any upholstered furniture, curtains, or other items that could easily catch fire.
- Consider fitting a sprinkler system in your home as an added measure of house fire safety to extinguish flames and increase the chances of everyone escaping the home safely if a fire breaks out.
- Make digital copies of all important documents in your home, as papers and documents rarely survive. You could also invest in a fireproof safe to protect valuable items and papers.
- If you smoke, try to always smoke outside and make use of strong ashtrays. Soak any cigarette butts in water before tossing them away. Avoid smoking in bed or under the influence of any drugs or medications.
- Turn off any space heaters or similar devices when you are not in the room. Make sure to extinguish any candles, too, as well as ensure that any fireplaces are fully extinguished before going to bed.
- Speak with children and let them know what to do in case of fire at home. The more children know about fire safety in the home and what to do during a fire, the better chance they’ll have of escaping unharmed if a blaze begins.
Home Fire Prevention Tips
- One of the simplest and most effective forms of house fire prevention is to ensure you have working smoke alarms fitted throughout your property. Test your alarms monthly and replace the batteries each year.
- A carbon monoxide alarm can also be useful for fire prevention in the home. These alarms should be placed outside bedrooms and will go off if carbon monoxide is detected in the air, which may be caused by a fire.
- Another home fire prevention tip is to check up on your home’s heating sources. Make sure that any furnaces or stoves you use are in good condition, and have your chimney cleaned annually if you use a fireplace.
- Check on your home’s wiring, too. Any frayed or exposed wires can be a residential fire safety risk and should be removed and replaced.
- For home fire protection, you should only use a kerosene heater if this is legal in your state. When using kerosene heaters, be sure to take them outside for refueling and give them time to cool off.
- If you have any combustible materials or substances around the home, store them far away from any open flames or heat sources. It’s usually best to store such items in a shed outside or locked away in a storage unit in the garage if you have one.
House Fire Protection Tips for Kitchens
- A lot of fires begin in the kitchen, so there’s a lot of specific fire safety information and fire safety tips for the home that apply purely to this room. For starters, make sure to never leave pots and pans unattended if you are in the process of frying or grilling something. You should also never leave the oven on when you leave the home.
- To maintain fire safety in your home, try to keep stove areas clear of any items that might be flammable, like tea towels and curtains. You should also ensure that pets stay away from stoves and cooking surfaces.
- If a fire begins in a pan you’re using, try to cover it up with a lid and turn off the oven. The flames should go out once the lid is in position, and you can then wait for the pan to cool. Do not pour water onto it, as this can make the grease and fire spread.
What to Do After House Fire
- As well as knowing what to do if your house is on fire, it’s important to know what to do afterward. The first step is to call 9-1-1. You and members of your family may require immediate first aid to treat any burns or wounds.
- Contact loved ones to let them know what happened and inform them that you made it out safely.
- Do not go back into the house until the firefighters or authorities have said that you can do so. They’ll usually need to enter the property first and check for any further risks or ongoing fires.
- Think about mental health. Many people suffer PTSD and other stress-based symptoms after a house fire. Consider speaking with a therapist or taking other measures for your emotional well-being.
- Contact a disaster relief service for assistance if you need help with temporary housing or food. You may also be able to contact friends or family to stay with them.
- Let your mortgage company and insurance company know about the fire. Make a full list of the items that were damaged or destroyed, and keep receipts for expenses you incur after the fire. All of this can be needed for your insurance claim.
House Fire Safety FAQ
What Is the Most Common Cause of House Fires?
How do house fires start? Cooking fires are the main cause of home fires, according to data from the National Fire Protection Association.
Where Do Most House Fires Start?
The kitchen is the room of the house where most fires tend to begin.
How Hot Do House Fires Get?
When it comes to how hot is the average house fire, temperatures in a single room can rise up to 600 degrees. Fortunately, temperatures tend to be much lower (around 100 degrees) at the floor level, which is why it’s wise to stay low as you exit the home.
How Fast Does Fire Spread?
In terms of how fast fire spreads in a house, it can take just a couple of minutes for a fire to spread to multiple rooms and only five minutes for an entire house to be engulfed in flames.
House Fire Statistics
- According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in 2019, there were a total of 1,291,500 fires reported in the United States, and of those, an estimated 339,500 were residential fires, which include both single-family and multi-family homes.
- Home fires caused an estimated 2,620 deaths in 2019, which represents approximately 76% of all fire-related deaths in the US.
- Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries, followed by heating equipment, electrical distribution and lighting equipment, and smoking materials.
- Home fires caused an estimated $7.8 billion in direct property damage in 2019.
- The risk of dying in a home fire is highest for those over the age of 65, as well as for children under the age of 5.