During the five-year period from 2013 to 2017, US fire departments responded to an estimated average of 354,400 home fires each year. These fires caused an annual average of 2,620 civilian deaths, 11,220 injuries, and $6.9 billion in direct property damage.
House fires are nothing short of devastating. Whether it’s contained in the kitchen or it causes widespread destruction, the emotional costs of a fire emergency in your home are only outweighed by the financial costs.
There are ways that you can be prepared for a fire emergency in your home. With fall in full swing, consider making October a time to review your fire emergency readiness. In fact, make it a tradition, right along with Daylight Savings Time and Halloween!
Take time every year to review your fire emergency plans, so if you’re ever faced with a fire emergency, you don’t waste precious time or make a serious mistake.
What Do You Do in a Fire Emergency?
According to the American Red Cross, there are several things you need to do immediately if you’re faced with a fire emergency in your home.
Before you’re faced with an emergency, you need to have a fire extinguisher in your home and know how to safely operate it. As soon as a fire starts, you should:
- Get out of your home, stay out, and call 9-1-1. Yell “fire” loudly several times.
- Use the stairs if you live in a building with an elevator.
- Leave all of your things behind; saving yourself is most important.
- Never open doors that are warm to the touch. Always know a second way out if closed door handles are warm or smoke is blocking your primary escape route.
- If escaping through smoke is your only option, get low to the ground and crawl to the exit. Heavy smoke and poisonous gasses collect first along the ceiling. Try to close any doors behind you.
- If you cannot escape because smoke, heat, or flames are blocking your exit, stay in the room with the door closed. Place a wet towel under the door and call the fire department or 9-1-1. Open a window and wave a cloth or a flashlight to call attention to yourself.
- Once you make it outside, go to your pre-determined meeting place or follow your family’s emergency communication plan.
- Tell emergency operators or firefighters immediately if any people or pets are still trapped in the home.
- If your clothing catches on fire, stop immediate, drop to the ground, and cover your face with your hands. Roll over and over or back and forth until the fire has been smothered. Remember: stop, drop, and roll.
Make a Fire Emergency Plan
Making a fire emergency plan is the best way to keep your family safe if you’re ever faced with a home fire. A fire emergency plan helps everyone prepare and know exactly what to do, eliminating confusion and saving precious time.
Here are some items to include in your fire emergency plan.
- Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms, and outside of sleeping areas. Test them once per month and replace the batteries at least once per year.
- Teach your children what smoke alarms sound like and what to do if they hear one.
- Every member of your household should know two ways to escape from every room of your home. A secondary route might be a window onto a neighboring roof or a collapsible fire ladder that allows for escape from upper story windows.
- Determine and clearly communicate a family meeting spot outside of your home.
- Develop a family emergency communication plan and make sure all members of the household know who to contact if you cannot find other family members.
- Practice, practice, practice. Run though your escape plan at least twice per year. Practice feeling your way out of the house in the dark or with your eyes closed.
- Make sure everyone in the household knows how to call 9-1-1.
- Make sure everyone in the household knows how to stop, drop, and roll if their clothes catch fire. Practice it!
In addition to fire extinguishers, consider purchasing a fire blanket. Fire blankets are made of fiberglass, and can be used to extinguish small fires in the home. They can also be used to wrap around a person whose clothes have caught on fire.
If you have a fire blanket in the home, store it in or near the kitchen but away from potential hazards. Be sure that everyone in the household knows where it is stored and how to use it.
Remember, if a fire occurs in your home, get out, stay out, and call for help immediately. Never go back inside for anything or anyone.
Fire Department Home Safety Checks
Some local fire departments offer free home safety checks to help you assess your risk and prepare your fire emergency plan. Call your local fire department to find out what kind of emergency planning and assessment services they offer.
Your fire department may help you advise on some of the following fire emergency topics:
- How to prepare a home evacuation plan
- How frequently to clean your furnace and fireplace
- How to safely store flammables
- Where to place smoke alarms
- How to safely use space heaters and extension cords
- Best safety practices in the kitchen
- Smoking safety
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Homeowners Insurance Helps You Recover After a Fire
Fortunately, fire is typically one of the “covered perils” included in most standard home insurance policies. If you have a fire in your home, you can expect your homeowners policy to offer the following types of coverage to help you repair and replace your damaged property:
- Dwelling coverage
- Personal property coverage
- Other structures coverage
- Temporary living expenses coverage
It’s important to review your insurance policy every year to make sure you have all the coverage you need. If you’re shopping for homeowners insurance, working with a local independent insurance agent is your best bet. Independent agents aren’t tied down to one insurance company. They can help you shop around for the best coverage at a price that fits your budget.
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