Fire is the fourth largest accidental killer in the United States, behind motor vehicle accidents, falls, and drownings. It is also the disaster that families are mostly likely to experience. Over 80 percent of all fire deaths occur where people sleep, such as in homes or hotels.
Most fires occur when people are likely to be less alert such as between midnight and morning. 84% of house and building fires are accidental, such as those caused by poor electrical wiring or careless behavior. However, 16% are set intentionally through arson or acts of terrorism.
The leading cause of death in a fire is asphyxiation. Fire victims seldom see the flames. Fire consumes the oxygen in the air, thereby increasing the concentration of deadly carbon monoxide in the atmosphere. Inhaling carbon monoxide causes a loss of consciousness or death within minutes.
The heat from a fire can melt clothes and scorch the lungs in a single breath. At floor level, temperatures average about 90 degrees Fahrenheit, but at eye level rise to 600 degrees.
House fires begin with a bright flame then quickly generate a black, choking smoke. It is nearly impossible to see through a thick cloud of smoke, so fire drill participants should practice evacuating buildings with their eyes closed.
Install smoke detectors. Check them once a month and change the batteries at least once a year.
Develop and practice an escape plan. Make sure all family members know what to do in a fire.
Draw a floor plan with at least two ways of escaping every room. Choose a safe meeting place outside the house.
Practice alerting other household members. It is a good idea to keep a bell and a flashlight in each bedroom for this purpose.
Practice evacuating the building blindfolded. In a real fire situation, the amount of smoke generated by a fire will most likely make it impossible to see.
Practice staying low to the ground when escaping.
Feel all doors before opening them. If the door is hot, get out another way.
Learn to stop, drop to the ground, and roll if clothes catch fire.
Post emergency numbers near telephones. However, be aware that if a fire threatens your home, you should not place the call to your emergency services from inside the home. It is better to get out first and place the call from somewhere else.
Purchase collapsible ladders at hardware stores and practice using them.
Install A-B-C type fire extinguishers in the home and teach family members how to use them.
Do not store combustible materials in closed areas or near a heat source.
Check electrical wiring.
Replace wiring if frayed or cracked.
Make sure wiring is not under rugs, over nails, or in high traffic areas.
Do not overload outlets or extension cords.
Outlets should have cover plates and no exposed wiring.
Only purchase appliances and electrical devices that have a label indicating that they have been inspected by a testing laboratory such as Under Laboratories (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM).
Get out as quickly and as safely as possible.
Use the stairs to escape.
When evacuating, stay low to the ground. If possible, cover mouth with a cloth to avoid inhaling smoke and gases.
Close doors in each room after escaping to delay the spread of the fire.
If in a room with a closed door:
If smoke is pouring in around the bottom of the door or it feels hot, keep the door closed.
Open a window to escape or for fresh air while awaiting rescue.
If there is no smoke at the bottom or top and the door is not hot, then open the door slowly.
If there is too much smoke or fire in the hall, slam the door shut.
Call the fire department from a location outside the house.
Give first aid where appropriate. Seriously injured or burned victims should be transported to professional medical help immediately.
Stay out of damaged buildings. Return home only when local fire authorities say it is safe.
Look for structural damage.
Check that all wiring and utilities are safe.
Discard food that has been exposed to heat, smoke, or soot.
Contact insurance agent. Don’t discard damaged goods until after an inventory has been taken. Save receipts for money spent relating to fire loss.
Are you ready for a fire? Following these basic safety tips every day will ensure your family’s safety all year round.
- Keep fire extinguishers handy
- Design a fire escape plan
- Learn first aid for burns
- Keep matches away from children
- Practice home fire drills
- Check smoke detectors regularly
- NEVER smoke in bed
- Know two exits from every room
- Teach STOP, DROP and ROLL
- Post emergency numbers by every phone
- Store flammable liquids properly
- Set your hot water heater to 120 degrees F
- Crawl low in smoke
- Replace damaged electrical cords
Plan your escape routes
- Determine at least two ways to escape from every room in your home.
- If you must use an escape ladder, be sure everyone knows how to use it.
- Select a location outside your home where everyone would meet after escaping.
- Practice your escape plan at least twice a year.
- Once you are out, stay out!
- If you see smoke in your first escape route, use your second way out. If you must exit through smoke, crawl low under the smoke to escape.
- If you are escaping through a closed door, feel the door before opening it. If it is hot, use your second way out.
If smoke, heat or flames block your exit routes, stay in the room with the door closed. Signal for help using a bright-colored cloth at the window. If there is a telephone in the room, call the fire department and tell them where you are.