Home fires can be devastating, costing families millions in property damage and risking our health, safety, and lives. Once a fire starts, every second counts as you and your loved ones make your way to an exit before the smoke and flames become overwhelming. With the right knowledge and tools, you can take steps to both minimize the risk and protect yourself in the event of a house fire. Here is what you need to know.
1. Install smoke alarms and fire extinguishers.
Smoke alarms are one of the easiest and most effective ways to protect people from house fires. They can also reduce your risk of dying in a house fire by as much as 50 percent. For the best results, install one on every level of your home, inside bedrooms, and near each separate sleeping area. They should all be connected so that when one sounds, they all sound.
Test your smoke alarms monthly, and change their batteries once a year. Replace smoke alarms every ten years.
Each level of your home should have a working fire extinguisher. Your garage and basement should also have one, and your kitchen should have its own. Read the instructions periodically so that you are familiar with them.
2. Be fire-safe around the house.
Your home should be your sanctuary, but you might be making some simple mistakes regarding fire safety. Regular check-ups can help you spot those mistakes and stay safer.
Smoking is a major cause of deadly fires. If you smoke, smoke outside and use deep, sturdy ashtrays to dispose of the butts once you have doused them in water. Use fire-safe cigarettes when possible. Never smoke in bed, when you are medicated, drowsy, or when someone in your home is using oxygen.
Space heaters are responsible for nearly half of home heating fires and most associated deaths. Keep the heater at least a meter from all furniture, curtains, and other items and away from children and pets. Never run the space heater when you are asleep or away from home; do not use it with extension cords. Check the cord regularly for signs of damage or melting. Ensure other home heating sources are in good working order and clean, and install carbon monoxide detectors.
Faulty electrical outlets and appliances are also to blame for many electrical fires. Signs that your outlets may need to be replaced include:
- An outlet that feels warm or hot to the touch
- A loose outlet
- An outlet that fails to hold the plug tightly
- An outlet that buzzes or pops
- Frayed wiring in the outlet
Power strips and surge protectors should only be used for light-load appliances, such as lamps and computers. Extension cords and wiring should not be tucked under rugs, tacked down by nails, or in high-traffic areas.
3. Be fire-safe in the kitchen.
House fires are most likely to start in the kitchen. When frying, grilling, or broiling food, stay in the kitchen and monitor your cooking. Stick close by when baking, boiling, roasting, and simmering food.
Pets often like to get underfoot during food prep. Make sure to keep them away from the countertops and cooking surfaces for safety reasons. Keep flammable items such as potholders and towels away from the stovetop. Clean grease and debris from the stovetop and cooking surfaces, and before you go to bed, scan the kitchen to ensure all appliances have been turned off.
If a fire starts in the kitchen, slide a lid over the pan and turn off the burner. Keep the lid in position until the pan has cooled completely. Do not remove the lid before the pan cools; never pour water on a grease fire. Keep a fire extinguisher handy in the kitchen, just in case.
4. Have a plan.
In emergencies, your body’s natural fight-or-flight system takes over and hijacks the amygdala. You may act in ways that are counterproductive to your safety as your brain’s emotional center overrides your ability to behave rationally or effectively. Having a plan and practicing it regularly will make it easier to act when necessary.
Smoke and heat rise, so rather than hopping up and running, you and your family need to practice rolling and crawling or sliding along the floor. Touch doors and doorknobs to test for heat before opening them, and close them behind you to slow the fire’s progression.
Many children instinctively hide, so drill your children on the sound of a smoke alarm and how to behave when they hear it go off. Assign one family member to help infants, young children, or those with mobility issues to escape to limit how many people are left inside and help the firefighters better target their efforts. Show your children pictures of firefighters in turnout gear, or visit a local fire brigade so your children will feel more comfortable around fully dressed firefighters.
Designate a family meeting place outside the home, and once you are outside, never go back inside until cleared by professionals. Instead, inform the firefighters that help is needed. Firefighters have the tools, resources, and knowledge to rescue people and pets safely and efficiently.
5. Check your insurance cover.
Getting out safely is always the priority in a house fire, but once the smoke clears, the rebuilding process begins. Is your insurance up to the task? You will want to find out before disaster occurs, so you must check your homeowner’s insurance periodically. Coverage A typically covers the structure of your home, while Coverage C covers personal property, such as furnishings, appliances, clothing, and jewelry. If your coverage is inadequate to replace everything, you may need to increase it or add supplemental insurance to protect yourself.
A house fire can be devastating, but you can take control and be well-positioned to fight back with the right tools and plan. You will be better prepared and ready for anything, and your family will be safer, too.
Bio: Randall Williams is the founder of Aegis Safe, a fire service company. He specializes in building and fire safety services.
Website: Aegis Safe https://www.aegissafe.com.au