Earthquakes, hurricanes and blizzards are responsible for plenty of devastation each year, but their destruction is no match for the ordinary household fire. Injuring 36 people in the United States every day and causing over $7 billion in property damage annually, home fires are America’s biggest disaster threat. And while 69% of American parents say that their children would know what to do in a fire, 52% of parents with kids ages 3–17 admit that they haven’t talked to their families about fire safety.
In order to help protect yourself and your family, it’s important to understand the basic characteristics of fire.
- Fire is fast. In less than 30 seconds, a small flame can grow completely out of control and turn into a major fire. Most deadly blazes occur in the home while people are sleeping, and upon waking, they have mere seconds to escape.
- Fire is hot. The heat from a fire is more threatening than the actual flames. In a blazing room, the temperature at floor level can be 100 degrees, while the temperature at eye level can rise to a sweltering 600 degrees. Inhaling this super-hot air can scorch your lungs.
- Fire is dark. Despite what you may see in the movies, actual house fires start out bright, but quickly descend into black smoke and complete darkness. If you wake up to a fire, you may struggle trying to find your way out of a home that you’ve lived in for years.
- Fire is toxic. The smoke and toxic gases produced by house fires kill more people than the flames do. Fire sucks up the oxygen in the air and produces smoke and poisonous gases, and breathing even small amounts of these toxins can make you drowsy, disoriented and short of breath.
It’s only when we truly understand the dangerous nature of fires that we can smartly prepare ourselves for survival. Safely escaping a fire takes more than a perfect execution of the “Stop, drop and roll” technique. In addition to having smoke alarms on every level of your home and testing them regularly,
you need a fire escape plan. Let’s walk through the 7 steps to developing a fireproof home exit strategy.
STEP 1: MAP IT OUT
Draw or obtain a map of your home that illustrates all doors and windows.
STEP 2: FIGURE IT OUT
Identify two ways out of every room.
STEP 3: CHECK IT OUT
Make sure the exit doors/windows you’ve identified are in good working order and make for an easy escape.
STEP 4: HASH IT OUT
Agree on a common emergency meeting place in front of your home.
STEP 5: SCOPE IT OUT
Make sure your address can be seen from the street so that first responders know where to go.
STEP 6: SOUND IT OUT
Perform a monthly test on all smoke alarms; make sure everyone in your home can hear the siren, especially when asleep.
STEP 7: TEST IT OUT
Practice your fire escape plan with everyone in your home at least twice a year.
For more tips and ideas to help keep your family prepared for fires, check out Protect Your Home’s Fire Safety blog articles.