When it comes to a building or house fire, every second counts so it's important that you and your family are prepared and oddly enough, many aren't. You don't want to be stuck in a moment of panic and not know what to do. You need to come up with an escape plan which will help you, your family and even your pets out of your home quickly. Did you know that a small flame can get completely out of control in less than 30 seconds and become a major fire? Well it can and it just takes minutes for a home or building to fill with thick, poisonous smoke and end up engulfed in flames.
Come Up with a Fire Escape Plan
Put together a fire escape plan and practice it at least twice a year with everyone in your household, including your children (and show them how to escape in case you're not around)), those with disabilities and even overnight guests. Your escape plan needs to include a map of each floor of your home, also showing all the windows and doors. In addition, be sure to test all your windows on a regular basis to make sure they're east to open. It's also a good idea to purchase a collapsible ladder. Another important consideration is to have your house or building number clearly marked.
If your home has security bars on the windows or doors it's crucial that they have quick release devices that make it possible for them to be open immediately in case of fire. It's also critical that everyone in the household knows how to use them. While security bars may keep your home safe from intruders, they can also trap everyone inside in the event of a fire, an obvious deadly situation.
Specify a Meeting Place Outdoors and Take Attendance
Designate a meeting place a safe distance away from the front of your home. For instance, meet by the mail box at the end of your driveway or on the front sidewalk. Specifying a meeting place will make it easier to ensure that everyone exited the house safely and that no one gets hurt looking for someone who has already made it out safely. Also, make sure everyone in your home knows to call 911.
Before You Open a Door
During a fire, before opening a door, carefully touch it with the back of your hand to see if it's hot or cool to the touch; never use your palm because you just may need the use of both hands to exit the your home. If the door is cool to the touch, open it very slowly, backing out through the doorway (not face first, but be sure to look where you're going). If it's not possible to exit the home, close the door and cover any cracks around the door and vents in order to keep smoke out. Next, if possible, call 911 or your local emergency phone number if possible. State where you are and how many other people may be in the home. If a phone isn't available, grab something light in color or a flashlight and wave it in front of the window to signal for help. You may want to consider having a flashlight available in each room of the home and let everyone know where they are.
Get Down on the Floor
Whether you're about to exit a doorway or trying to make your way to safety, get down on the floor and crawl because the cleanest air will be toward the floor. It's a known fact that it's usually not the fires that kill people or even falling debris; more often than not it's a lack of oxygen and toxic smoke. Fire needs heat, oxygen and gas to expand and will take in more oxygen that you would. By crawling you way to an exit you'll have more oxygen available to you. It's important to remember that smoke contains toxic gases that can not only disorient you but overcome you.
Once You're Out Stay Out
Once you've made it out of your home, don't rush back in. Your chances of saving anyone else in the home will be better once you get out if you notify the fire department using the 911 or other applicable system. You should never rush back into a burning building for whatever reason. If you find that someone's missing, or that your pets are trapped inside the home, tell the firefighters immediately; they're better prepared to perform rescues safely and securely. It's also important to note that teaching your children not to hide from firefighters should also be a part of your household's escape plan.
Fire Safety TTD
- On a regular basis, perform a fire safety walk through of your home on a regular basis.
- Install a fire alarm and sprinkler
- Don't overload electrical sockets
- Invest in a fire extinguisher
- Don't leave candles unattended
- Look for worn wires and don't run cords under furniture or rugs
- Have your chimneys inspected and cleaned by a professional annually
- Don't leave cooking unattended and be sure your small appliances and stove are off prior to going to bed.
- Use a metal mesh fireplace screen and if applicable, leave glass doors open when burning a fire
- Change the battery in your fire alarm at least twice a year and test it once a month to be on the safe side.
- Never smoke cigarettes in bed or leave them unattended. Also, keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children
- If you use space heaters, position them where they can't be tipped over easily. Keep burnable items like blankets, clothes, towels or curtains away from stove burners or space heaters
Just remember, when a fire occurs, you might only have seconds to safely escape so exit immediately and following your escape plan, take the safest exit route. If you end up needing to make your escape through smoke, remember to crouch down and crawl low, underneath the smoke, keeping your mouth covered.