Guest post by Scott Bay
US fire departments respond to close to 360,000 house fires per year which results in injuries, deaths, and destruction. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) estimates deaths numbered around 2,500 and damages valued at nearly $7 billion.
These statistics may seem a little overwhelming, but don’t let them scare you. Gain peace of mind by protecting your home against fire. These three sections will ensure optimal defense: prevention and preparation, what to do during a fire, and how to react after a fire.
Prepare and Prevent
Use these following seven steps to secure your home and protect your family from the threat of fire:
- Emergency communications plan. Everything becomes chaotic during an emergency, it’s easy to lose track of family members. Ensure everyone knows who to contact and when by creating a list of emergency response and family members’ numbers.
- Inspect your home. Look for out-of-date sockets and frayed wires. Electrical fires aren’t as common as cooking fires, but they are equally as devastating. Prevent an electrical fire by replacing faulty wiring, purchasing surge protectors, and plugging appliances into a separate electrical outlet so you don’t overload a breaker.
- Purchase reliable smoke alarms. This may seem obvious, but you should make sure to buy and install devices designed to aid your home safety preparations. One of these is the smoke alarm, which the NFPA recommends installing in every bedroom, outside every sleeping area, and on every level of the home.
- Invest in home safety devices. There is a lot more than smoke alarms that will keep you safe from a fire. Consider other home safety products such as fire extinguishers and fire sprinkler systems. A fire sprinkler system requires installation from a professional technician, but it can save your home and people’s lives in the event of a fire.
- Routine maintenance. Safety equipment only works when it’s maintained. Create a reminder list for when to replace smoke alarms and fire extinguishers. Smoke alarms should be tested every month, and their batteries changed every year. Fire extinguishers should also be examined every month to make sure they are fit to put out a fire.
- Family escape routes. The American Red Cross recommends that you teach your family two ways of escape, along with a set meeting point outside the home. Once set, you should review the routes at least once a year.
- Review basic security measures. Additionally, to developing escape routes, practice security measures. These range from “stop, drop, and roll” to best practices for getting out of a burning building—for example, staying as close to the floor when smoke fills the hallway and not touching a doorknob with your bare hand.
In the Event of a Fire
Implementing the seven steps above prepares and prevents you and your family for a house fire. But when one occurs, take immediate action with the seven steps shared below:
- Use a fire extinguisher. If the fire is small and you know how to use a fire extinguisher, put your skills to use. Extinguishing the fire reduces structural damages and the risk of injuries or worse.
- Leave the home. If you don’t know how to use a fire extinguisher or have no way of getting to it, leave from your home immediately. There is always less time than you think to get out of a burning structure safely.
- Let other people know. Other family members might not hear the smoke alarms. Because of that, yell “fire” as you leave the home so your loved ones know to take action.
- Protect your hands and lungs. If a closed door or its doorknob feels warm to the touch, leave it closed. And, if smoke fills the home, get low to the ground and stay low until you are safely out of the building. If you become trapped in your home, go to a clear room and close the door behind you to reduce your risk of smoke inhalation.
- Stay out. Once you escape your home, don’t reenter it. Going back inside only puts yourself and others in danger.
- Call for help. When you get outside your home, call 911. The fire department owns the necessary gear and training to enter your home and rescue people or pets that may be stuck inside.
- Remember your backup plan. Smoke, fire, or debris can sometimes block your exit routes. When that occurs, stay in the room, close the door, and call 911. Then, open a window and signal for aid with something brightly colored or with a flashlight.
After a Fire
Knowing how to respond to a fire after the fact makes a huge difference. A well-thought-out response plan can alleviate some major issues. Employ the seven steps listed here to recover physically and emotionally from a fire:
- Medical attention. If anyone’s hurt, burned, or coughing, get medical aid to prevent infection or additional injury.
- Call loved ones. Always let your friends and family know you’re safe. It’ll not only alleviate their fears but also give them a chance to help you with anything you may need.
- When to go home. Only enter your home once it’s declared safe and the local fire authority signs off on it.
- Remember to check in. Everyone responds to trauma differently, so try to stay in tune to how people are feeling. It could be a good idea to seek the assistance of a licensed counselor to start healing from the emotional turmoil.
- Inspect your home. Check it for structural damage and examine your telephone, electrical, plumbing, heating, and cooling systems. Go through a household item checklist; gather chemicals, medicines, and foods that were exposed to heat, smoke, or soot; and dispose of these items properly.
- Insurance. Don’t throw away anything until the insurance agent walks through your home and takes inventory of all your damaged items. The agent may also want to see photos and receipts related to items lost in the fire.
- Cleaning. Some repairs and cleaning you can do yourself. However, it might be better to hire a professional to repair and clean wet drywall and insulation. To figure out whether you should DIY or call in the pros, use the American Red Cross’s guide for cleaning up after a fire.
House fires are frightening. By taking this advice and learning from these steps, you can take proactive measures to manage fear and be as prepared as possible. Now you can decrease your risk of a house fire as well as increase your chances of escaping and recovering from one.
Scott Bay is a digital journalist who reports on the latest technology trends, focusing specifically on smart home technology, travel, and AI.