The Basics: What to Do In a Fire

From time to time it is important to review all the safety techniques we learned as a kid. When researching information for this article, I was shocked how much I have forgotten since those fun days of practicing stop-drop-and-roll. Take a minute to bookmark all of The Basics series on our blog and leave yourself a reminder to review this crucial information each year.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, in 2007, fires killed more Americans than all other natural disasters combined. 84% of all civilian fire deaths occured in residences.1

Given that many fires are preventable, statistics like these are sobering. Take the time today to prepare your house from fire and practice your escape plan with so that your family can be one less victim.


Smoke alarms:
  • Make sure to install the kind that have a long-life lithium battery and hush button on each level of your home. You will want to have one inside each bedroom, in the basement (if you have a basement) and near but not in the kitchen.
  • Test the smoke alarm once a month by pressing the test button. If the alarm does not go off, change the battery immediately. Make a note in the calendar to remind yourself to check the smoke alarm each month, perhaps on the first of the month when your bills are due to get yourself in the habit.
  • Replace the smoke alarm battery once a year unless you are using the lithium batteries.
  • Replace your smoke alarms after ten years of use.
Fire Extinguishers:
  • Purchase an A-B-C type fire extinguisher and teach all responsible family members on how to use it.
  • This type of fire extinguisher is for small fires only, they generally only have about 10 seconds worth of extinguishing power and that is only if the fire extinguisher has been properly maintained. Disclaimer: Do not ever feel that you need to fight the fire, if you have the slightest doubt about your control of the situation then evacuate immediately and call 9-1-1.
  • Simulate using the fire extinguisher with the PASS sequence:
Pull the pin out.
Aim the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
Squeeze or press the handle.
Sweep from side to side at the base of the fire.

Escape Plan:
  • Make an escape plan. Identify two exits from every room in your home. Tip: handy fire escape ladders are made for crawling out of second story windows--get one.
  • Agree on a reunion site immediately outside of the house where family members will meet. This could be in front of the neighbor's house across the street or near a tree or lamppost at the street.
  • Practice crawling out of your home with your eyes shut. Heavy smoke makes it hard to see and breathe, if you are low to the ground you can increase your chance of escape.
  • Remind everyone that it is important to exit quickly and then call 9-1-1 from a safe location outside of the home.

Escape tips:
  • Sleep with your bedroom door closed. If your smoke alarm goes off, crawl to the door. Rmember the heavy smoke makes it hard to see and breath, stay close to the floor.
  • Check the air coming under the door and feel the door handle and door with the back of your hand. If the air, door handle and door feel cool and you do not smell smoke, then open the door slightly with your face turned away from the opening. Listen and smell for fire and smoke. If you smell smoke, use another exit.
  • Close doors behind you as you leave.
  • Remember: use a stairway and not an elevator for escape.
If you are trapped:
  • Stay low to the ground for the freshest air. Close the doors between you and the fire if possible.
  • Open a window slightly and hang something out of it (a shirt, towel, whatever is handy) to attract attention. Leave the window open slightly for ventilation.
  • If you catch on fire: STOP where you are and cover your face, DROP to the ground and ROLL back and forth.
Find more information on fire safety here: or contact your local fire department.

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