In 2013, there were 369,500 residential home fires in the United States, according to the National Fire Protection Association. These fires results in the deaths of 2,755 people and injuries for 12,200.
By taking the following precautions in advance, you can improve your family’s chances of a safe escape in case of a house fire:
1. Schedule a fire drill once a month for the entire family.
Regular practice is important, because in an emergency, it’s easy to get frightened and react without thinking. A monthly drill helps every family member, even small children, be more likely to follow the plan instinctively in case of an actual house fire. Practice during the day and also at night from time to time.
2. As a part of the monthly drill, remind family members where fire extinguishers are located in your home.
Explain when and how fire extinguishers used during a house fire. Make sure your family understands that their safety is the top priority, however, so they aren’t tempted to use an extinguisher when they should be evacuating the house. Replace your fire extinguishers yearly, and use the old units to let family members practice pointing it at the bottom of the fire.
3. Plan at least two escape routes from every room in your home.
Especially if you have children, it can help to draw a floor plan that illustrates the two ways out of each room in a house fire, including windows and doors. Your family may be used to exiting through, for example, the front door, but it may not be safe to do so. Everyone needs to understand exactly where all the avenues of escape are and understands that if a door feels hot to the touch, it shouldn’t be used.
4. Make sure your family knows how to escape.
It is important to be able to get out as safely as possible. Family members should know that since smoke rises in a house fire, they should practice getting low to the ground and crawling to one of the escape routes to make sure they stay under the smoke.
5. If there are small children in the home, designate an older family member to get the child out of the house in case of fire.
Some young children don’t hear smoke detectors while they’re sleeping, so it is important to plan ahead for someone to help them. They may also become frightened and not be able to get themselves out of the home without help in the case of a house fire.
6. Establish a safe meeting place outside of your home for the family to go to in case of a house fire.
This will help make sure everyone doesn’t scatter, and lets your family quickly determine if anyone may still be inside in the event of a house fire. Make sure you practice going to your meeting place as a part of your fire drill, and pick a place that’s far enough away from the home to be safe.
7. Remind everyone that once they’re out of the house, they need to stay out.
If someone is missing during a house fire, tell the fire department dispatcher this information when you call. A burning building should only be entered by firefighters who have the skill, equipment and training needed to do so.
You can never anticipate an emergency, but with a clear plan of action in place you can prepare for your response.
For more on safety following a fire, click here to read our blog on how to avoid the health risks of fire damage cleanup.