According to the American Red Cross, you could have only two minutes to escape a house fire when it begins. This requires planning on your part to ensure your family and yourself will escape unharmed. Here is an overview of safety tips for before, during, and after the unthinkable happens to your home.
Preparing for a fire is something nobody wants to have to do, but we all should. House fires can begin in an instant and spread quickly. Preparation equals survival. To begin, you should make sure you have working smoke alarms on every floor. Test them monthly and replace the batteries yearly (at least). If you have children, make sure to teach them what the smoke alarm sounds like and what to do when they hear one. Once the alarms have sounded, you need to escape. Ensure every household member knows of at least two ways to escape from every room in the home. Create a family meeting spot outside for everyone to meet once they’ve escaped the burning home. To avoid losing contact with each other, you should set up emergency communications. Rehearse your escape plan twice a year to ensure everyone knows what to do when disaster strikes.
If you do not have an escape plan, you should at least follow basic prevention tips. Things like keeping flammable items away from anything that gets hot, not smoking indoors, teaching children the dangers of fire and keeping lighters/matches out of reach, and never leave a candle burning without adult supervision.
When a fire starts in your home, you only have a few minutes to escape safely. If you have access to a fire extinguisher, and the fire hasn’t spread too much, use it. Knowing how to properly operate a fire extinguisher could prevent your entire home from burning. Once the fire has spread, leave your belongings and yell “FIRE!” several times on your way outside. If you’re in a building with elevators, use the stairs. When there is smoke or hot doors blocking your escape route, use your second escape route. If there’s only smoke in your pathway you can drop low and crawl under the smoke to avoid inhalation. If there’s no other way out, stay where you are with the doors closed. Never open a door that is warm to the touch. You can shove a wet towel under the door, call 9-1-1, and open a window to signal for help. If your clothes catch on fire, stop, drop, and roll! Then cool the burned skin with water for three to five minutes. Once you’ve made it safely outside, go to your meeting place or use your emergency communication to contact your family.
Now that you’ve made it safely outside, you need to call 9-1-1 (unless you already have). Next step, will be to treat with first aid, and cool and cover burns to avoid infection. Once you’ve done that, let your friends and family know that you are safe. You’ll need to stay out of a fire damaged home until local fire authorities deem it safe. Once they do you may reenter and discard any food that was exposed to the fire and smoke.
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