Tragically, each year thousands of people around the nation are impacted and injured in house fires. On average, U.S. fire departments respond to one home fire every 88 seconds, and seven people die in the United States per day from home fires.
Fire safety starts with the 3 Ps: Prevention, Plan and Practice – which are especially important for families with kids. In the event that a fire breaks out in your home, you may have as little as two minutes to escape once the smoke alarm sounds. Here are some important facts you need to know that could potentially save your life:
- Fire is fast. In less than 30 seconds a small flame can turn into a major fire. It only takes a few minutes for thick black smoke to fill your home. On average, you have two minutes to escape.
- Smoke is thick and dark. In a fire, smoke is so thick and dark you may hardly see the flames. The thick smoke can be disorienting even in your own bedroom. Practice feeling your way out of the house with your eyes closed to ensure you are prepared.
- The smell of smoke won’t wake you. Contrary to popular belief, the smell of smoke will not wake you up. In fact, the poisonous gases will put you in a deeper sleep, making smoke detectors all the more vital.
- Sleep with the door shut. Always sleep with your door shut to minimize the spread of fire, smoke and poisonous gases.
- The heat is intense. At knee height, the temperature of a house fire may be about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. At shoulder height, temps may reach 690 degrees Fahrenheit. Staying low in a crawling position while you escape is your best bet.
- Don’t jump up out of bed. If you wake and sense a fire, do not jump up out of bed or sit up. Remember: the heat is more intense farther from the floor. Instead, roll out of bed onto the floor.
- Crawl to the door. After you roll onto the floor, crawl to the door — which should be closed while you sleep. Test it with the back of your hand both lower and higher up to see if it is hot. If it is, DO NOT OPEN! Instead, plan to use an alternate escape route.
- Try the door. If not hot to the touch, open the door slowly, approximately one to two inches only, bracing it firmly as pressure from gases may have built on the other side which could force the door to open quickly. If the air from behind the door is warm, do not use the hallways. Pull the door shut and use an alternate escape route, such as a window.
- Instruct your children. Shout to your children to stay in their rooms with the doors closed. Remind them to open a window no more than three inches to avoid drafts which tend to fan the flames. They should crouch at this window and breathe the fresh air that comes in.
- Crawl to safety. If you are able, crawl to safety via the hallways, keeping your head about one to two feet off the floor. Cover your nose and mouth with a cloth – preferably wet – and take short, shallow breaths.
- Don’t just jump out of a window. A hasty jump may cause an injury that could compromise you vacating the area or helping rescue others. Remain calm. If you must escape through a window without a ladder, hang from the sill by your hands first to lessen the drop – if you have to break the glass to exit, drape something over the sill to avoid cutting yourself.
- Stop, drop and roll. If your clothing catches fire remember to: STOP, DROP and ROLL. This can save your life and limit burn injuries. Stop where you are. Drop to the floor. Roll back and forth to smother the fire. Everyone in your family should learn and practice often, especially young children.
For homes with a professionally installed and monitored fire safety system, the homeowner is connected to potentially life-saving services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. While the family is following the escape plan, the system sends a message to a central monitoring station who will immediately contact the homeowner and dispatch the local emergency personnel.