Every year, more than 4,000 Americans die in home fires. That’s 12 people a day, dying in their own homes. Tens of thousands more suffer pain and even disfigurement from fire injuries. It could happen to you and your family. People can survive even large fires in their homes if they get out quickly. To be among the survivors, there are things you can do.
Install and maintain smoke detectors to warn you of a fire.
Make an escape plan, and practice it.
Consider home automatic sprinklers for complete fire safety protection.
Play It Safe: Install Smoke Detectors
The majority of fatal home fires happen at night, while people are asleep. So every home needs smoke detectors to wake people up before they are trapped or overcome by smoke. With smoke detectors, your risk of dying in a home fire is cut in half! You need smoke detectors outside each sleeping area and on each additional level of your home - including the basement. Smoke detectors are inexpensive. Follow the installation instructions carefully, and test your detector every week, following the manufacturer’s directions.
Make an Escape Plan
When a fire occurs, there’s no time for planning. So sit down with your family today, and make a step-by-step plan for escaping a fire.
Know Two Ways Outs
Draw a diagram of your home. Plan two ways out of every room, especially bedrooms.
In an Apartment
Be sure you can unlock all locks quickly, even in the dark. Use stairways to leave the building. Never use an elevator during a fire; it may stop between floors or even take you to the floor where the fire is burning!
In a Two-Story House
Make sure everyone can unlock all locks and open all windows and doors quickly. If you must escape from a second-story window, be sure you have a safe way to reach the ground. Make special arrangements for small children and people with disabilities.
Get Out Fast!
In case of a fire, don’t stop for anything. Do not try to take possessions or pets. Just get out! Call the fire department from a neighbor’s phone after you are out.
Choose a Meeting Place
Everyone should gather at one meeting place outside, preferably at the front, where the fire department will arrive. Each family member should know how to call the fire department from a neighbor’s home.
Don’t Go Back, No Matter What
Make sure everyone in your family knows that once they’re out, they must not go back for any reason. If people are trapped, fire fighters have the best chance of rescuing them.
Practice Your Plan
At least twice a year, have a fire drill in your home. Appoint someone as the monitor, to sound the alarm and make sure everyone participates. Remember, a fire drill is not a race. Get out quickly but carefully!
Start from Bedrooms
Because the majority of fatal fires occur at night when people are sleeping, start the drill by going to your bedroom, closing the door, and waiting for the monitor to sound the alarm.
Make your exit drill as realistic as possible. Practice both escape routes. Pretend that certain exits are blocked by fire, that there are no lights, and that the hallways are filling with smoke.
Crawl Low Under Smoke
Smoke contains deadly gases and is hot, so it will fill the room from the top down. If you encounter smoke using your primary exit, use your alternate route instead. If you must exit through smoke, the best air will be several inches off the floor. Get down on your hands and knees, and crawl quickly to the exit.
Test Every Door
Before opening a door, make sure there’s no fire on the other side. Kneeling or crouching at the door, reach up high and use the back of your hand to touch the door, the door knob, and the space between the door and the frame. If any of these feels hot, use your second way out. If everything feels cool, brace your shoulder against the door, and open it carefully. Be ready to slam it shut if heat or smoke rushes in. As you leave, close all doors behind you. They can slow down the spread of fire and smoke.
If You Are Trapped
Close doors between you and the fire. Stuff the cracks around doors, and cover vents to keep smoke out. Wait at a window and signal for help with a flashlight, if you have one, or by waving a sheet or other light-colored cloth. If there’s a phone in the room where you’re trapped, call the fire department, and tell them exactly where you are.
Delay Is Deadly
If a fire does break out, you need early warning from smoke detectors, and you need to know how to get out without delay. Exit drills make sure that your family can get out quickly when there is no time for mistakes!