Fire Preparedness

Fire is one of the deadliest killers, the cause of thousands of deaths every year mostly in home or building fires. Whether it is a fire in the home or a wildfire that consumes your community, understanding what to do in terms of a fire emergency can save the lives of you and your family. Proper home fire safety means combining preparation with an emergency kit and a plan of action.

You do not have to break the budget or make extensive plans to be a prepper, but you will need to know what to do in case of a fire at home or wildfire evacuation. What follows are a few tips that will help keep you and your family safe if a fire should break out.

Prevention

Home fires are one of the deadliest and most unexpected of all disasters. While many fires in the home are caused by accidents, such as flammable material accidentally igniting or grease fires in the kitchen, electrical fires are difficult to predict and can happen at any time with the right combination of causes in place.

This means that you have to take precautions, make plans, and install devices that help protect you and your family in case a fire occurs. While you cannot prevent all fires from occurring, you do significantly reduce the odds if you take the right steps.

Inspect: The first step should be to look over your home and identify potential areas where fires can occur. The kitchen is the first place to start, especially if you use a gas stove. Ensure that the area around the stove is empty of flammable materials and that you have baking soda handy to put out a grease fire. Dumping water on a grease fire only causes it to spread, so use baking soda to put it out.

Clean: A clean home is a property that has no tinder to set off a fire. When dust, hair, and debris collect it tends to dry out and makes the perfect flammable material. A clean home removes the tinder and makes it less likely a fire will accidentally start.

Maintain: Your furnace or central air unit needs regular maintenance to ensure it operates properly and all potential sources of fire are removed. This means having a professional technician go over your furnace in the fall before the weather turns cold and replacing worn parts along with checking for potential fire hazards.

Dust that builds up in the ducts is a potential source of fire, so have them cleaned on a regular basis. A properly working furnace not only keeps you warm and reduces utility bills, it is also safer and makes it less likely to be a source for fire.

Space Heaters: While space heaters are perfect for many rooms, they are one of the leading sources of fires. Keep them at least three feet from anything that can catch on fire. This precaution includes carpets, so you will want a solid, non-flammable platform for your space heater.

Tobacco: If you smoke cigarettes, cigars, or even a pipe, take the appropriate precautions in dousing them fully with water before you dispose of them outside of a deep ashtray. All it takes is one ember to catch the trash on fire, so a little water can really help.

Install Smoke Alarms: You’ll need to install enough smoke alarms, so that wherever a fire starts it will be detected early. Ideally, you will need to install one smoke detector for each floor of your home, in the hallway, and near the bedrooms. Be sure to test them once a month and replace the batteries once each year.

Candles: Candles are beautiful and create an atmosphere that is unmatched. Unfortunately, they are also one of the most common ways that homes catch on fire, particularly if the candle is near flammable material, such as a curtain or bedsheet. Never leave a candle unattended and be sure to set them up in places well away from any flammable materials. Plus, use flashlights instead of candles in case the power goes out.

Other checks you can perform include the following;

  • Have electrical wiring checked, note any inactive outlets or intermittent connections
  • Replace frayed extension cords, loose plugs, or exposed wires
  • Do not put wiring under rugs or attach wiring with nails
  • Do not overload electrical outlets and extension cords
  • Keep all combustible materials away from sources of heat

The more you can do to secure your home, the better off you will be.

Home Fire Safety

Even the best prevention methods cannot stop all types of fires from happening in your home. A loose wire or gas leak is enough to cause a fire to start, so you will need to know what to do when the worst happens.

React: Be sure everyone in your home knows what a smoke alarm sounds like, so they are not surprised and confused by the noise. This means conducting a smoke alarm drill once or twice each year, so that everyone will know what it is and what to do.

Escape Route & Meeting Location: Everyone in the house should have at least two ways to get out of a room. The hallway and the window are the most obvious means of escape, so be sure that they can get out on their own. Once outside the home, choose a meeting place such as a prominent tree, bush or the driveway to ensure that everyone gets out safe.

Communication: If everyone has a cellphone or smartphone, then communication should not be an issue. But that is not always possible, so create a plan where those in your household can communicate with each other as they escape the home. In addition, calling 9-1-1 once outside the home should be automatic.

Stop, Drop, and Roll: This is a drill that needs to be practiced a couple of times each year. In case your clothes catch fire, stop, drop, and roll will put out the flames. By teaching this to your family, they will know what to do in case their clothing catches on fire.

A little practice can go a long way in case the worst should happen. Remember, if your home catches on fire, get everyone out as soon as possible. You may have priceless valuables inside, but nothing is more precious than your family, so put them first and do not re-enter the home until it has been deemed safe by the local fire department.

Wildfire Evacuation

If you live in a community that is near a forest or has been designated an area susceptible to wildfires, the only plan of action is executing a wildfire evacuation. Too many lives have been lost by homeowners who either believed they could hold back the flames or tried to get everything out and took too much time. If a wildfire is approaching your home, a quick evacuation is your only safe course of action.

While a wildfire can strike in any place where there are plenty of trees, brush, and dried grass acting as tinder, there are locations that are more susceptible than others. If you live in one of these areas, then you should be prepared to evacuate quickly when a wildfire is approaching your location.

  • Keep valuables in portable storage boxes
  • Create an emergency kit that sustains you and your family for 48 to 72 hours
  • Plan your evacuation route in advance
  • Head to relatives or friends who live outside of the wildfire zone
  • Do not return to your home until it has been determined to be safe

Valuables start with items that cannot be replaced, such as family photos and items. You can store them in portable boxes that make it easy to put into your vehicle. If you have far more valuables then can be taken with you at once, consider purchasing a fireproof safe or storing them in a safe location, such as a self-storage center with adequate fire protection.

You should have an emergency kit in your home along with one in your vehicle that provides enough food, water, medical supplies, blankets, and other comforts as you travel out of the wildfire zone and to a safe place to stay. The kit is there in case you have a breakdown or want to help others in trouble. Be mindful of the evacuation routes and have access to maps and GPS, so you head in the right direction.

Most people will wind up at a hotel or with relatives and friends until the area has been determined to be safe. Do not try to go back early, but then you have no need to do so if you have protected your valuables. Pets can be kept at shelters until you can return home and determine the extent of the damage.

Finally, look over your home insurance policy to see if you have protection from wildfire. Most home insurance plans have fire protection, but you’ll want to double-check the policy and speak to your insurance agent about any additional coverage that might apply.