Fire travels alarmingly fast. If your only plan for dealing with a house fire is to just quickly find some way to put it out, you’re already too many steps behind. Now is the time to learn how to prevent house fires in the first place and the best strategies to implement if you’re faced with one.
Know the Danger Zones
Where is a fire most likely to break out in your home, and what can you do to prevent it?
Kitchen: This is one of the most flammable places in your home. Turn pot handles towards the rear of your stove. Don’t overload outlets with appliances. Store matches and lighters out of children’s reach. Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. Don’t walk away while something is cooking.
Garage: Store flammable liquids (like gasoline and paint) in their proper containers. Keep flammable items away from the water heater. Dispose of oil-soaked rags. Disconnect power tools when not in use. Keep a fire extinguisher and smoke alarm in the room.
Living Areas: Turn off appliances, space heaters, and electric blankets when not in use. Be careful with fires in the fireplace, and make sure there is always a screen. Get rid of frayed cords. Install smoke alarms throughout the house.
Bathrooms: Don’t leave hair dryers, curling irons, and electric shavers plugged in. Don’t keep your towels hanging near heaters.
Teach Your Children
Every member of your family should know the rules of fire safety. Teach your children to not play with matches or lighters and to unplug appliances when not in use. When appropriate, teach your children how to properly use the microwave, stove, and oven. However, you still shouldn’t let young children cook unsupervised.
Have a Plan
Does your family know what to do if there is a fire that can’t be put out? Do your children know how to escape? Make a plan, and go over it with your children. The plan should include:
Two exits from each room (most likely a door and a window).
Where to meet outside, like a mailbox or stop sign. This will reduce chaos and provide a fast visual of who is accounted for.
An assignment for who will help babies, young children, and elderly members of the family.
How to get out of the second floor. This means you’ll need to have escape ladders in each room.
Teach your children to check a door before they open it.
If there is smoke coming under the door, do not open it.
If the door handle is hot, do not open the door.
If the door itself is hot, do not open the door.
Instead, go out another way.
Teach your children to stay low when leaving the house. This means they’ll need to crawl.
Make sure your children know how to unlock their windows, open them, and get outside.
And this is a hard one, but tell your children they can’t go back to retrieve favorite stuffed animals, toys, or even pets. Leave the pet-finding responsibility to an adult, and if the pet can’t be found, be sure to get yourself out of the house.
A plan is only one part of fire safety. Make sure you practice your plan. Have your child climb out of bed and carefully approach the door. Then, crawl through the hall and out to safety, going straight to the meeting place. Have your child practice opening the window. If an older child will be responsible for helping a younger child, have them both practice this. Do all of this more than once so it will stick. Talk about your plan as part of your regular family discussions so your children are completely prepared if the time ever comes.
Tip: Arrange for a trip to the fire station when a firefighter can dress in full gear. A firefighter with a helmet and mask can look scary, and your children need to be used to the sight so they will be more likely to go towards their rescuer instead of hiding.
Making fire safety part of your family’s routines and discussions will help your children spring into action without hesitation if necessary, saving precious minutes and reducing panic. Take the time now to make plans and teach your children.