What Should I Do in the Event of a House Fire?

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Fire Prevention Week 2023

Fire Prevention Week is October 8-14, 2023. This year’s theme is “Cooking safety starts with YOU. Pay attention to fire prevention™.”

Cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the U.S., with around 170,000 reported in 2021. To help keep your home and loved ones safe, we put together a list of tips with simple but vital actions you can take to stay safe in the kitchen. 

October is fire prevention month, which means it's time to review fire safety and prevention.

What to do in a fire

Knowing what to do in a fire can save your life.

  • If you can extinguish the fire, do so thoroughly.
  • If not, run for safety and call for help. To make your way through a fire, crawl beneath the smoke and be sure to avoid going through doors that are hot.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, house fires are responsible for more than 2,600 fatalities per year.1 But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are fire protection steps you can take to keep your family safe in the event of a home fire.

Of course, prevention is the best step toward fire safety, but in case of a fire in your home, you’ll need to know exactly what to do. Let’s go through the steps.

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Teaching a kid?

Our guide to preparing kids for emergencies is brimming with hands-on activities, storybooks, worksheets, and videos to help you approach this scary (but super important) subject with your child. 

1. Extinguish the fire if possible

If the fire has just sparked—for example, a pan catches fire on the stove—you may be able to contain it.

Grab your fire extinguisher and remember to PASSPull the pin, Aim at the base of the flames, Squeeze the extinguisher handle, and Sweep from side to side until the fire is extinguished. Make sure that the fire is completely out and not still smoldering.

2. Crawl beneath the smoke to escape

Fire produces smoke and poisonous gases that can cause lightheadedness or loss of consciousness if inhaled—both of which can cause issues if you’re trying to get out of a burning building. To escape a fire and its fumes, crawl to the closest exit, remembering that it may be a window. Staying low to the ground will help protect you from inhaling smoke and toxic gases.

3. Check doors and doorknobs for heat

If you must go through a door to get to an exit, check if the door is hot. If the door (or doorknob) is warm to the touch, there could be fire raging on the other side, so do not go through it. If you open a door and see fire or smoke, shut the door and go to a second exit.

4. Run to safety

Once you make your way outside, run away from the fire to safety. Part of the house or apartment, like the roof or siding, may catch fire and fall around the perimeter of the building, so run across the street or down the block to safety.

5. Call for help

Once you have made it away from the fire, call 911. If you don’t have a cellphone, go to a neighbor’s house and ask to borrow a phone. Tell the operator that there’s been a fire at your address, and then keep the line open to see if they need any other information.

If you’re trapped inside

If you end up trapped, cover the cracks around the door with whatever you can find: blankets, jackets, towels, etc. If you can wet the fabric down, do so. Cover vents with wet blankets as well, to keep smoke from seeping into the room, and call 911 if you have access to a phone.

In the event that you get stuck on an upper story of a building, hang sheets or anything large enough to capture people’s attention out the window to let firefighters know where you are. Do not attempt to make your way through the fire.

If your clothes catch on fire, you should immediately stop, drop, and roll: stop where you are, drop to the ground, and roll to extinguish the flames. Cover your face with your hands as you roll, as well, to further protect yourself from flames.

Learn how to prevent home fires

The best way to ensure fire protection is by preventing fires in the first place. Small steps add up to a safer home for you and your loved ones:

Keep emergency equipment like fire extinguishers and fire escape ladders in your home on each floor to help fight any fires that do occur. Checking your smoke alarms once a month can help prevent dead batteries and faulty detectors.

Now that you know what to do in case of a fire in your home, the next step is doing everything you can to make fire prevention a top priority. Consider a home security system with integrated fire protection to provide you and your family with safety and peace of mind.


Sources

  1. Marty Ahrens and Radhika Maheshwari, National Fire Protection Association, “Home Structure Fires," October 2021. Accessed September 28, 2023.

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Katie McEntire
Written by
Katie McEntire
As a renter, pet-owner, and woman living alone, Katie McEntire takes safety seriously. She’s tested devices like pet cameras, home security systems, and GPS trackers in her own home and devices in the name of safety. In addition to testing, writing, and reviewing for SafeWise, she also makes videos for the site’s YouTube channel. She’s been featured on publications like TechGuySmartBuy, Forbes, Healthy Moms, and Digital Care. Katie has a Bachelor’s degree in Technical Writing from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. She’s held previous writing positions at Overstock.com and Top Ten Reviews.

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