Fire is one of the most common disasters that can strike your home. It can cause material losses, injury, death and extensive fire and smoke damage to your property. While a fire can happen any time, there are some steps you can take to protect your home and your family from a fire incident.
Make sure your home is ready for a fire, including installing smoke detectors and having a working escape plan that you practice regularly.
Smoke detectors help detect fires early and send an alert to the appropriate authorities. Install them on all levels of your home, including in sleeping areas and outside any high-risk areas. Test them monthly and change the batteries at least once a year.
Have a plan for escaping from your home, with designated exits. Keep the phone number of your local fire department handy so that everyone knows where to go in an emergency.
Develop and practice a fire escape plan with the whole family, designating two exits from each room. Check the windows and screens to ensure they open easily in an emergency, and have a plan for alternate exits if the first plans are blocked by smoke or debris.
If you are in a room with smoke, stay low and crawl under the smoke, getting as close to the floor as possible. The oxygen in the air is higher near the ground, and it’s easier to see if there is smoke coming from another part of the room.
Don’t panic if you see smoke; try to stay calm, but call 911 immediately and let the authorities know there’s been a fire at your address. If you don’t have a phone, go to a neighbor’s house or borrow a cellular phone from someone else.
Get everyone out of the house as quickly as possible. Use the stairway and your second exit to escape from the home, if available. Avoid going through the front door unless the fire is very hot.
Cover the vents with blankets or towels, if necessary, to help prevent smoke from entering the home. Once out of the house, call for medical assistance if you are suffering from burns.
Find a place to stay while your home is being repaired or rebuilt after a fire. If you can’t stay with friends or relatives, consider staying at a nearby hotel.
Recover your possessions from the fire, if possible. Most items damaged or destroyed in a fire are covered by insurance.
The damage caused by a fire can be expensive, but many home owners have insurance policies that pay actual cash value for items that are lost or destroyed. If you don’t have insurance, talk to your insurance agent and discuss the process of filing a claim to recover your possessions.
Clear the area around your home of flammable materials, including dead and dying trees, brush, and other foliage. Remove pine needles from the roof and gutters, and landscape with native plants to help reduce the likelihood of a wildfire igniting your home.