If you are a parent or work in an environment with children, it’s most likely that you have some sort of emergency plan of action in place or have thought about putting a plan in place that has to do with fire safety. Although no one ever wants to go through something so tragic like a fire accident, it’s always good to have a plan in place just in case the unthinkable happens.
Once a fire starts in a home, all it takes is around two minutes for the fire to become very life-threatening. In fact, a home or residence can become engulfed in flames within around five minutes, and all it takes is minutes for thick black smoke to fill a house. And if you think the actual fire itself is dangerous, according to ready.gov, the heat can oftentimes be even more threatening than flames. A fire can be 100 degrees at floor level and rise to 600 degrees at eye level, which can burn your lungs when you inhale and it can even melt your clothes to your skin.
Although we all have busy lives, it’s always a good idea to take a moment to reflect and create an emergency plan of action with your family or place of work where children might be involved. Having a strong, detailed plan can help you be prepared for the worst if it were to happen.
It’s sometimes easy to get into the mindset of thinking a fire will never happen at your home because you’re always so careful. But the truth is that you never really know. Unexpected things happen and it’s better to be prepared than just not have talked about it or discussed it with your family.
According to the American Red Cross, here are a few things you can do to be better prepared for a home fire:
- Install the correct number of smoke alarms, and be sure to test them once a month and replace the batteries at least once a year.
- Teach children what smoke alarms sound like and what to do when they hear one.
- Ensure that all household members know two ways to escape from every room of your home and know the family meeting spot outside of your home.
- Establish a family emergency communications plan and ensure that all household members know who to contact if they cannot find one another.
- Practice escaping from your home at least twice a year; press the smoke alarm test button or yell “Fire” to alert everyone that they must get out.
- Make sure everyone knows how to call 9-1-1.
- Teach household members to Stop, Drop and Roll if their clothes catch on fire
The American Red Cross also recommends keeping items that can catch fire easily at least three feet away from anything that gets hot, such as space heaters. Smoking materials are the leading cause of residential fire deaths, so taking precautions such as smoking outside, choosing fire-safe cigarettes, etc., can help keep your home safer as well as the environment around you.
And we should all know safety precautions while cooking in the kitchen, but just in case someone needs a reminder: You should always stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food; turn off the stove if you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time. And for grilling, position your grill at least 10 feet away from siding and deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches. Plus, it never hurts to keep a fire extinguisher by your side. Now that you know the right way to prepare for a fire, let’s talk about what to do once you are experiencing one.
What to do During a Fire
Remember that every second counts in the event of a fire, and escape plans can help you get out of your home quickly. It’s good to practice your home fire escape plan twice each year, just to make sure children are really grasping the concept of what to do in case of an emergency.
If a fire starts in your home or work environment, according to the American Red Cross, here are a few things you can do:
- Know how to safely operate a fire extinguisher
- Remember to get out, stay out and call 9-1-1 or your local emergency phone number
- Yell “Fire!” several times and go outside right away. If you live in a building with elevators, use the stairs. Leave all your things where they are and save yourself
- If closed doors or handles are warm or smoke blocks your primary escape route, use your second way out. Never open doors that are warm to the touch
- If you must escape through smoke, get low and go under the smoke to your exit; close doors behind you
- If smoke, heat, or flames block your exit routes, stay in the room with doors closed; please a wet towel under the door and call the fire department or 9-1-1; open a window and wave a brightly colored cloth or flashlight to signal for help
- Once you are outside, go to your meeting place and then send one person to call the fire department; if you cannot get to your meeting place, follow your family emergency communication plan
During the emergency situation, if you got too close to the fire and your clothes caught on fire, always remember to stop what you’re doing, drop to the ground and cover your face if you can, and then roll over and over or back and forth until the flames go out. Or in other words – stop, drop, and roll. If you notice that you have burned skin, you can cool the burned skin with water for three to five minutes, and you should be sure to call for medical attention.
As per the American Red Cross, be sure to call 9-1-1 immediately after a home fire has taken place if you already haven’t. And once you are in a safe place, give first aid to wherever is needed, which means you may need to cool and cover burns to reduce the chance of further injury or infection. It’s also good to let friends and family know that you are safe, and if people and/or animals were seriously burned or injured in the fire, they should be transported immediately to receive help. After the fire is gone, you should not return to or try to enter a fire-damaged home until local fire authorities say it’s safe to re-enter.
In the coming days after the fire is over, try to pay close attention to how you and your loved ones are experiencing and handling stress. After all, you just went through a very tough, tragic situation. The Red Cross also recommends discarding any food that was possibly exposed to heat, smoke, or soot, and to watch pets closely, and keep them under your direct control. And if you need temporary housing, food, or medicines, you can always contact your local disaster relief services for help. Someone should be able to help you and your family gets what they need.
So now you should have what you need to prepare mentally and physically if and when a fire happens at your home or even your place of work.