Each year, fires claim the lives of more than 4,000 Americans, and injures an additional 25,000. The damage to property from fires is estimated at $8.6 billion annually. Most of the destruction caused by fire is preventable. Use the following information to learn what you can do to guard against fires and what to do if you become a fire victim.
Protect your Home
There’s nothing worse than knowing you could have prevented an accident, but didn’t. Proper preparations are simple if you follow these tips:
- Ensure smoke detectors are placed in each level of your home and near each bedroom.
- Run tests regularly, clean them of dust and debris, and change the batteries every two years.
- Have a fire extinguisher on hand and know how to use it.
- Be extra careful in the kitchen – take caution when working with oil and fire. Never leave candles unattended.
- Dispose of cigarette stubs properly and never smoke in the bedroom.
- Don't overload electrical sockets. Keep matches, lighters and candles out of children's reach.
- Always turn off appliances when not in use.
- Keep portable heaters at least 36 inches away from combustibles.
Prepare your Family
Discuss an evacuation plan with the family. Plan two escape routes for each room in your home. And rehearse fire drills at least twice a year.
The Escape Plan
- If you know the source of the fire, stay calm, and use a fire extinguisher to put it out. If it can not be contained, evacuate immediately and contact 9-1-1.
- If you know there’s a fire but you are unaware of the source, test the door knob for heat before opening closed doors. Using the back of your hand, feel the top of the door and slightly tap the door knob to feel for heat – do not use the palm of your hand.
- If the door is hot, leave the door closed and exit through a window. If you still cannot escape, hang a light colored material in the window this is a sign to let fire fighters know you are there.
- If the door is cool, open slowly and make sure it is safe to proceed. If it’s clear, leave immediately, but cautiously close the door behind you. If it appears to be dangerous, shut the door and proceed to exit through a window.
- If your clothes catch on fire, stop, drop and roll.
- If smoke is present, try not to inhale it – crawling on the floor can prevent you from breathing in hazardous smoke that can affect your health and mental state.
- Get out of the house and stay out! Immediately call 9-1-1.
The effects of a house fire can be devastating and like any accident, it may leave weary victims feeling overwhelmed with the questions about what to do or how to start putting their lives back in order. The following information is provided to help assist those in need:
- If you are with burn victims, or are a burn victim yourself, call 9-1-1; cool and cover burns to reduce chance of further injury or infection.
- If you detect heat or smoke when entering a damaged building, evacuate immediately.
- If you are insured, contact your insurance company to obtain instructions about the actions you need to take. If you are a tenant, contact the landlord. If you want to enter your home, check with the fire department to make sure it is safe.
- If you have a safe or strong box, do not try to open it. It can hold intense heat for several hours and if the door is opened before the box has cooled, the contents could burst into flames.
- If you must leave your home because a building inspector says the building is unsafe, ask someone you trust to watch the property during your absence. Inform the local police so they know where you’ll be.
- Contact the American Red Cross - Capital Region Chapter for immediate assistance with needs such as temporary housing, food and medicine. Or file for disaster assistance through FEMA.
- Download and print this FEMA Booklet: After the Fire: Returning to Normal