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You fall asleep with a lit candle and wake up to the smell of burning fumes and smoke filling the room. A fire can spread quickly — from practically nothing to a blaze throughout your entire home within minutes. Your belongings are replaceable (for the most part), but you and your family’s lives are not. That’s why it’s critical to have an escape plan along with a fire prevention plan.
- House Fire Causes
- What & How To Prepare
- Fire Safety Infographic
- Safety In The Workplace & With Kids
- Home Fire Facts
- Fire Fighting Equipment For Your Home
Fires can start in multiple ways. However, some of the most common causes of home fires are (in order of frequency):
- Kitchen Stovetops – When frying or grilling, make sure the area is clear from anything that could catch flame near the stove like a dish towel, paper towel or curtain. Also, make sure the overhead vents are clear from obstruction.
- Heat Producing Sources – Space heaters, furnaces, fireplaces or anything that warms the inside of your home or is potentially flammable should not have anything within 3 feet surrounding it. If you use the fireplace, get a glass screen so embers don’t escape. And never plug more than one portable heater into an outlet.
- Candles – Always blow out candles before bed and when leaving home. A good tip is to count the number of candles when you’re lighting them and make a note of where they are so you don’t forget any at the end of a dinner party or relaxing evening.
- Dryers – The dryer is particularly prone to catching fire since it not only gets hot but also creates static electricity. Lint traps and ducts can clog up too, so clean them out regularly.
- Other Appliances – Make it a habit not to plug in too many gadgets or lights into one outlet to avoid overloading them. Check bulb requirements for lamps and don’t use more than the maximum wattage. Never put extension cords under rugs. In addition, you should unplug or turn off anything that isn’t in use, like computers and televisions, so they don’t overheat.
A fire safety plan, or fire prevention plan (FPP), is meant to prevent fires from happening. An FPP points out potential fuel sources in the area that could cause the spread of a fire. It also designates any alarm systems and fire extinguishing systems in place to help control the spread of a fire. You will commonly find FPPs in workplaces and schools, but it’s also important to have one at home.
Developing A Fire Safety Plan
The best thing you can do for yourself is to be proactive and come up with a gameplan should a fire erupt. It gets everyone on the same page so you can act quickly and effectively escape in times of need. Experiencing a fire is scary enough, so a house fire safety plan eliminates the need to panic or second-guess what to do.
Follow these escape planning tips to have a stress-free evacuation plan.
- Create a fire safety escape plan worksheet that maps out escape routes from every area in your house. Draw a floor plan, including doors and windows, and use arrows to show the possible exit options (ideally two per room). Keep in mind that windows are usually faster, especially on multilevel buildings where the stairs might become blocked by smoke or obstructions.
- Inspect every room to make sure all windows open easily, and doors unlock from both directions. Security bars on windows need to have a way to remove or release them from inside. Also, make a note of any items like furniture that could block exits to prevent escaping.
- As you go from room to room, you’ll also want to double-check that you have a properly working smoke detector inside every bedroom and outside each separate sleeping area. Smart smoke detectors alert your phone of a potential fire, even if you’re not at home. Carbon monoxide detectors are also ideal if you can place those on each level too. Learn more about CO detectors and placement tips.
- Pick a meeting place outside like a tree, light pole or mailbox for family members to gather. This spot needs to be a safe enough distance from your home and noted on your fire safety plan map. Make sure your house and house number are easily visible from the street so the emergency responders, neighbors or witnesses who pass by can find you and help.
- If you have multiple family members, discuss different situations, so everyone is comfortable and knows the plan independently, regardless of who is home. Families with infants, older adults or those with mobility limits should have a designated person (and back up) to assist in the event of an emergency. It might be awkward, but overnight guests should be informed as well, so share their room’s escape plan with them too.
Are you looking for a fire safety plan example? The National Fire Protection Association has a family fire safety plan template you can reference as a starting point.
Fire Drill: Practice Your Plan
Now that you have a plan, practice makes perfect. There’s a reason that schools and workplaces have fire drills, so why not do them at home too? That way, everyone can be fully prepared for real-life scenarios when the alarm sounds.
Here are some fire safety tips to keep in mind to make the drill as real as possible:
- Practice carrying people (and pets) down the stairs if need be and using your fire escape ladder (including children).
- Close the door behind you and the fire on the way out to slow the spread of smoke and fire and stay low to the ground during your exit.
- Get out and stay out! Once you exit, do not go back into a burning building under any circumstances to rescue belongings or missing people. Wait for skilled professionals with equipment to perform rescues.
- Try the plan in various scenarios including different weather conditions and times of the day. What seems visible to you in daylight can be less easy to navigate in the dark or when consumed by smoke.
- Don’t call if there’s not a real fire, but do ensure all who are able to call have the number of the local fire station stored in their phone or memorized. Have everyone memorize the emergency phone number of the fire department.
In some cases where the fire is blocking your escape route or higher-rise buildings, you may be better off “defending in place” and waiting for a ladder and fire rescue teams to assist you out safely.
In those situations:
- Close all doors between you and the fire.
- Use towels, sheets or clothing to seal cracks and cover air vents.
- If possible, let fresh air in by opening the window.
- Wave something bright like a flashlight on your phone or a bright piece of fabric out of any opening to provide a signal of your location.
Keep this graphic handy to reference the tips above and share with family and anyone you think could benefit from it.
Another benefit of having a fire plan and practicing often is to make sure children feel less frightened should a fire happen. School fire drills expose them to fire safety lesson plans, and The Boy Scouts even offer fire safety merit badges. The more you can educate little ones, the more confident they will be to behave like big boys and girls.
Workplaces are another location where fire safety and fire emergency plan regulations are enforced, and drills are practiced frequently. It’s especially crucial to have a disciplined plan if you have a highly fire-susceptible business in which you might need to put together even more specific guidelines for employees. A good example of this would be a restaurant fire safety plan to help patrons get to safety during a kitchen fire. Fire safety training is vital in any workforce to ensure all staff feels safe.
The United States and Canada observe National Fire Prevention Week during the week of October 9 every year. Fire prevention month is also October so you can create awareness all month.
In honor of fire awareness month and fire safety week, here are some hot facts you can share in your family or around the office.
- 1 in every 5 home fire deaths and half of all fires caused by home heating occur between December and February.1
- Heating equipment, like space heaters, are involved in 1 of every 6 home fires.1
- Dryers are responsible for about 9 out of 10 appliance fires.1
- 1 of every 3 American households have actually developed and practiced a home fire escape plan.2
- 71% of Americans have an escape plan in case of a fire, but only 47% of those have practiced it.2
- 1/3 of American households who made an estimate thought they would have at least 6 minutes before a fire in their home would become life-threatening. The time available is often less. 2
- 8% of Americans say their first thought on hearing a smoke alarm would be to get out!2
We hope these fire prevention tips have helped better educate you on home fire safety. We highly encourage you to equip yourself with the right types and number of fire extinguishers for your home and invest in fire escape ladders. Both are a small investment but could be the difference between life and death.
What’s included in your fire escape plan?
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