12 Critical Steps for Protecting Your Family from a House Fire
Today’s families have just two to three minutes to escape, making preparation vital
Home fires are scary and dangerous – and all too common. U.S. fire departments respond to a house fire every 90 seconds, reports the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). And, according to the NFPA, on average, seven people die in U.S. home fires every day.
“About 40 years ago, people had an average of 17 minutes to escape a burning home after the activation of a smoke alarm, but now with synthetic furnishings and open floor plans, that escape time is down to three minutes or less,” says Steve Kerber, Director of Firefighter Safety Research at UL.
Help protect your family by implementing these 12 tips.
1. Place working smoke alarms in all bedrooms and near kitchens and living rooms and on all levels of a house, as these reduce the risk of death in house fires by 50 percent, according to the NFPA. Interconnected smoke alarms are best because when one sounds, they all sound. Check batteries regularly, and replace the batteries when you change your clocks for daylight saving time. Also, always replace the batteries when you move into a new house.
2. Replace smoke alarms every 10 years. If you move into a new home, inspect the existing smoke alarms – look for the “replace by” or “manufactured on” date on the back of the device, and replace them if you don’t know the alarm’s age. Add additional alarms as necessary.
3.Test the devices at least once a month, recommends the U.S. Fire Administration. A unit should immediately
be replaced if it doesn’t work properly.
4. Close bedroom doors at night. “Our research clearly shows that closed doors dramatically decrease heat and carbon monoxide levels, which provide trapped occupants more time for help to arrive,” Kerber says. “Closing your doors is especially important at night when people are vulnerable and disoriented, with little time to react. It’s such a simple thing to do, and the result can be life versus death.”
Also, close the doors behind you
as you leave a burning house to slow the fire.
5. Plan an escape from the house from every room, using the NFPA’s downloadable grid to mark each room and two exits from each.
6. Practice a home fire drill twice a year with all family members, one
at night and one during the day, using different escape routes as identified on
7. Designate a meeting spot outside of your home, mark it on your fire
safety plan and practice meeting there during drills. Once outside a burning
house, stay outside.
8. Work with kids to teach them to escape on their own in case you
can’t help them. Get more tips on this from the NPFA.
9. Ensure your house number is clearly marked so the fire department can find it in case of a home fire.
10. Be careful in the kitchen; unattended cooking is the leading factor contributing to home fires, according the NFPA. More than half of all cooking fire injuries occurred when people tried to fight the fire themselves, so know what to do: Keep a lid nearby when you’re cooking to smother small grease fires. Never use water. For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed. If a fire gets out of control, escape the house and then call 911.
11. Be careful with heating devices. Heating equipment was involved in one of every five home fire deaths, according to the NFPA. Never put anything that can burn near heaters, especially space heaters.
If you’re building a new home, include a
fire sprinkler system, as these can reduce the risk of dying from home
fires by 80 percent and the risk of property loss by 70 percent, according to
so little time to escape, it’s critical that smoke alarms work and are placed
properly throughout the house – and that you have an escape plan and practice it.