Regardless of whether you live in a detached single-family home, a townhouse, duplex, row house, high-rise apartment building or garden apartment, there is almost nothing scarier than a fire. After they become aware of the fire, people can become trapped by the flames and smoke, and even if they are able to escape, they may suffer smoke inhalation.
Home structure fires have a variety of causes, but many of them (47 percent) start with the usage of appliances, including stoves, microwave ovens, toasters, radiators and other heating systems. Open flames from candles and fireplaces cause 32 percent of these fires.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2011 house fires resulted in 13,910 civilian injuries and 2,520 civilian deaths, while causing $6.9 billion in direct property damage.
Only 4 percent of home structure fires begin in a living room, family room or den, but they cause 24 percent of home fire deaths. Fires that start in a bedroom represent 7 percent of home fires, but they result in 25 percent of home fire deaths. Sixty-two percent of reported home fires deaths resulted from fires in homes with no working smoke alarms.
As always, you will increase the chances of survival for you and other family members if you have an emergency response plan in place. You should also have a 72-hour survival kit and bug-out bag prepared and ready to grab, and important documents should be organized.
There’s more to a house fire than scorching flames, although those are intimidating enough on their own. There’s also smoke, toxic gases, the lack of oxygen and a lack of light. House fires are usually preventable, but once they start, there’s often little time to react. Following are a few things you can do now to prepare for a potential fire in your home:
Practice an evacuation plan with your family, both by sight and feel. It’s possible that the smoke will be too thick for you to see your way around. Have pre-arranged meeting places for your family members.
Make sure that all of the doors, windows, screens and security bars can be easily opened by everyone in your home.
Install smoke alarms and change their batteries regularly. The most reliable types of alarms are dual-sensor smoke detectors. Also, use a carbon monoxide detector.
Keep a couple of fire extinguishers handy (one for the kitchen and one in your the bedroom), in order to keep small fires from spreading.
If you find yourself in a house fire that’s beyond the scope of your fire extinguisher, the best thing you can do is get yourself and other family members out of the residence. Here are 4 actions steps to take:
Get to the nearest exit quickly. You may have to get down low if there is smoke in the air.
If you need to open an interior door, do it slowly. The fire on the other side of the door could be worse than it is on your side.
As soon as you are out of the house, call 911. Don’t try to do this until you’re sure you and other family members are safe.
Do NOT go back into a burning building. On a personal note, I know this is the rule, but the fact is, if a family member is still in the house, I’m going back in.
Below are 4 things to do following a house fire:
Even after a house fire has been extinguished, charred beams and other items can fall. Don’t go back in until you’ve been given the OK by the fire department.
Contact your insurance agent and the landlord or mortgage company to report the fire.
Assess the damage to your valuables and make a comprehensive list.
If you’re planning to leave your residence for one or more days to stay at a hotel or at a friend’s residence, notify the police. Your house could become a target of thieves while you’re gone.
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