What to Do in Case of Fire at Home

Learn these important fire tips

What to Do in Case of Fire at Home

Few things in life are as frightening as a home fire. In most cases, you have just 2 to 4 minutes to get out of the house safely once a fire starts, so it pays to know what to do ahead of time. A bit of forethought and planning may just save the lives of you and your family. Here’s what you should do if you ever find yourself facing a fire in your home.

Have an Escape Plan

Just one-third of Americans have created and practiced a home fire escape plan, according to the NFPA, but this type of planning can save lives. Unfortunately, most people estimate they have at least 6 minutes to get out of their home before the fire becomes life-threatening, but the time to evacuate is usually just 2 minutes once a smoke alarm goes off. The National Fire Protection Association offers a resource for basic fire escape planning that should be practiced twice a year.

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Evacuating Your Home

When the smoke alarms go off, the goal should be getting out of the home as safely and quickly as possible. Do not try to save any belongings. Always check doors for heat before opening. If the door or doorknob is warm to the touch, do not open the door. Close doors behind you as you leave to slow the fire and smoke. Crawl under the smoke to avoid inhalation. Everyone should meet at a designated place outside the house.

If You Cannot Get Out

If your primary and secondary escapes are blocked and you can’t get out of the house, keep the doors closed. Cover cracks around the door and vents. This will slow the spread of the fire. Stay by a window and wait for fire responders. You should not scream constantly as this increases smoke inhalation — the most common cause of death in home fires. Instead, bang on a wall and all out periodically.

Exercise Caution with Small Fires

Use common sense if you have a small fire in your home. You can likely extinguish a small fire before it spreads, but you will need to act quickly. A home fire extinguisher may save your life and your home. Have at least a couple in the home, especially in the kitchen, and know how to operate the extinguisher. Each type of fire should be addressed with a different approach to quickly put out flames.

  • Grease fires. A grease fire should never be put out with water. This will actually make the fire larger. Instead, turn off the heat to the pan and attempt to cover it with a metal lid to cut off oxygen. If you can’t, smother it with a lot of baking soda or a fire extinguisher.
  • Small electrical fires. Do not use water on these fires. Turn off the power to the area and smother the fire with a nonflammable blanket or fire extinguisher. You can also pour baking soda on a broken electrical cord. Baking soda is made up of sodium bicarbonate which is found in class C fire extinguishers.
  • Small gas fires. Turn off the gas supply right away and smother the fire with cold water, a thick rug, or a fire extinguisher.
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