A house fire is something you never expect will happen to you. However, if you are prepared and ready, it can be less devastating and difficult to handle should tragedy strike. Your first priority should be making a family fire safety plan to help children and adults in the home know what to do to prevent fires, and how to respond if there is a fire in the home.
This guide to basic fire safety can help you get started in making you own family fire safety plan.
1. Learn, prevent, and point out fire hazards.
Children may not know what the true hazards are in the home. You should take time to point out that matches and lighters are for adults only, and always keep them in a high place. Show children how to properly unplug appliances and not to yank on electrical cords. Make it a habit to check the stove and oven before leaving to be sure they are off. Other things, like space heaters, should only be used in open rooms, and they should be turned off and unplugged when people are not in the room to observe them. Other hazards include leaving towels or flammable items on the stove top, draping clothing over lamps, and cooking without supervision.
2. Make sure the fire alarms are working and left on.
It should be an important part of your plan to test the fire alarms monthly, and to make sure they haven't been turned off. People will often turn them off when cooking up a storm during Thanksgiving, for example, and forget to turn them back on. Batteries should be replaced yearly or sooner as needed.
3. Map out routes to leave the home and teach basic fire survival.
Many people don't have a game plan for how to react in a fire. However, if you have rehearsed as a family, children will know what to do should a fire ever actually occur. Other basic survival tips that all family members should know include:
- not opening closed doors unless they are cool to the touch and closing them behind you when you move through the house
- not touching door handles because metal conducts heat
- staying low to the ground to avoid smoke inhalation
- the locations of all fire extinguishers in the home and how to use them
- how to call 911 if possible
- not to collect valuables or try to "save" belongings from the fire
- how to breathe through a shirt or cloth to prevent damage to the lungs
Designate a family safety spot to meet after getting out of the house, such as a park across the street, or a neighbors front lawn.