How to Protect Your Family from a Home Fire
There aren’t too many things more frightening than being suddenly awakened by smoke alarms in the middle of the night. The smell of smoke and intense heat hit you like a brick. Your first thought is “what is that sound, that smell?” When you finally realize your home is on fire, you only have a few minutes to get your family and pets out of the house. While most of us think that it won’t happen to us, the numbers are real. It is in your best interest to prepare your family for just such a disaster and maximize your chance of survival.
Home Fire Facts
According National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there were 1,319,500 fires in 2017. This led to 3,400 deaths and 14,670 injuries with an estimated loss of over $23 billion. In 2016 there were an estimated 364,300 residential building fires. The cause of these fires are categorized as follows:
Unintentional, careless 6.6%
Electrical malfunction 6.5%
Open flame 4.3%
Other heat 3.3%
Equipment malfunction 1.8%
Cause under investigation 1.4%
Other equipment 1.2%
Playing with heat source 0.4%
Further, California, Texas, and Georgia led the nation in the number of fire deaths while West Virginia, Alaska, and Alabama had the most deaths per one million citizens in the U.S. The data also reveals that more men die and are injured than women at a rate of 60.3% (men deaths), 59.4% (men injuries) to 39.7% (women deaths), 40.6% (women injuries). Along with the data above, our first responders lost 87 firefighters on duty in 2017 and 24,325 firefighters were injured in 2016 while on duty.
Protect Your Family from Fire by Creating an Escape Plan
Escape plans save lives, so it is imperative that you create a plan for your family. To get the ball rolling on creating this plan, draw a map of your home including, windows, doors, and hallways as well as identify the main emergency exits such as your basement doors, front door and back door. Define your main escape routes and then plan for alternative routes incase the route you chose is blocked by fire or smoke. Consider purchasing a fire ladder for upper floor rooms with windows.
Remember, this plan is only as good as the paper it is written on if you don’t practice. Try to create a routine fire drill where everyone can practice escaping from different areas of your home. I also recommend you have a drill in complete darkness in case of power outages or thick smoke. The more you practice these drills, the smoother an escape will go if the real thing should happen.
Fire Extinguishers for the Home
If a fire should ignite in your home, CALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT IMMEDIATELY (911). Once you have the fire department on the way, assess the situation and decide if it is possible for you to extinguish the fire. You should have fire extinguishers in different areas of your home such as the kitchen where over 50% of all home fires begin. Other locations include one for each floor, garage, workshop, basement, and laundry rooms. So basically, anywhere there may be a source of heat or dangerous chemicals. Don’t forget your grilling area, especially, if this is on a wooden deck.
Types of Extinguishers
There are four classes of fire extinguishers – A, B, C and D – and each class is designed for a different type of fire.
- Class A extinguishers for fires in ordinary combustibles such as wood and paper
- Class B extinguishers for flammable liquids such as grease, gasoline, and oil
- Class C extinguishers for electrical fires
- Class D extinguishers for use on flammable metals
Be sure to choose the right extinguisher for your situation. There are many extinguishers designed to handle multiple types of fires.
Humans and Pets First in an Emergency!
One of the first things that may come to mind in the confusion of a midnight fire disaster, is what to try to save. This should be an easy one, but you are under extreme stress and therefore need a plan and practice. Humans and pets should be the first ones you get out of the house. Further, put them on a list of who will need the most assistance getting out of the home. Then and only then, you can try to retrieve important documents, pictures, or whatever you put on your list as vital. Use your head, DO NOT risk life or injury for stuff, it can be replaced.
Avoid the Smoke and Heat in a Fire
When you are going through your drills, be sure to have everyone practice escaping while close to the ground. In some home fires, the smoke and heat are more dangerous than the flames. Stay low, heat rises so if it is 100 degrees near the floor, it will be much hotter higher. Also, try keeping a piece of fabric over your nose and mouth to keep debris and smoke out of your lungs.
Moreover, you can test doorknobs to see if there is intense heat in the area you are trying to enter. Opening doors can create a draft that will accelerate the spread of fire.
Finally, Don’t Panic
The best advice in this situation will always be, call 911 and get out, don’t panic. Use common sense and don’t place you or your family in danger for frivolous things. A fire can be an extremely stressful situation, by remaining calm and thinking with a clear head, everyone will have a better chance of surviving.