What You Should Do If Caught in a House Fire
Raging flames are ripping through your home – a terrifying sight we all hope we never have to experience. But the reality is that many residential fires occur in the U.S. Cooking equipment alone accounted for an average of 172,100 home fires per year in 2012-2016. Here are tips to escape a fire if one ever occurs in your house.
- Use a fire extinguisher – but only if safe. Attempt to fight only very small fires in initial stages. DO NOT attempt to extinguish any fire if it threatens your safety. Fires can increase in size and intensity in seconds, blocking exit paths and creating a toxic atmosphere.
- Scream out lout to inform others in the house of the fire situation. Relying on smoke alarms to inform others may be too risky as they can malfunction or have low batteries. Get yourself and your family members out as quickly as possible.
- Follow your fire escape plan and fire drills you’ve practiced. Take the safest escape route while staying as low as possible. Cover your nose with a shirt or damp towel. You might have to crawl under the smoke to avoid inhaling it. Note that smoke is deadlier than flames in a house fire.
- Don’t waste time picking up your valuables. It usually takes less than 30 seconds for a fire to get out of control. Fires can spread even faster in homes with synthetic furniture and furnishings. A few seconds can be the difference between life and death.
- If smoke is coming through the cracks of a door, do not open it. Also, touch the door and doorknob with the back of your hand to check if it’s hot. If yes, find another way out (door or window) to avoid the flames and smoke behind that door.
- In case it’s safe to open an interior door during a fire (smoke isn’t entering through the cracks and the doorknob is cool), open it and check if the way out is safe. If a burst of heat and smoke pours into the room, stay in the room and close the door. Otherwise, get out of the room and follow the safest escape route. Stay as low as possible and find the nearest exit. Close the doors behind you to prevent the fire from spreading this will help save your house and cause you to need less fire damage restoration.
- If there’s no safe exit (not even an escape ladder on a higher floor), stay in the room and seal the door and air vents with sheets or duct tape (if available) to prevent smoke from entering. Then call 911, open a window and yell for help. Wave a bright piece of cloth or use a light so that the firefighters can spot you. Children should never hide under the bed or in the closet to make it easier for firefighters to find them.
- If your clothes catch fire, remember to “stop, drop, and roll” to put out the flames. Cover your face with your hands while doing so.
- Do not use elevators. If power cuts occur, you could end up trapped inside the elevator, putting you at higher risk. Always use the stairs.
- Once you get out, go to the assigned meeting place and stay there! Never go back into a burning building under any circumstances. Let firefighters, who have the necessary training and equipment, save others in your property.
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