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

Written by | Updated September 30, 2020

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.

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 PASS: pull 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.

Crawl beneath the flames 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.

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.

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.

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.

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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: switch to LED candles, avoid smoking indoors, keep an eye out for frayed wires, and teach your children about fire protection by informing them about the dangers of matches and lighters.

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.


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