Every year, there are an average of more than 3500,000 home-based fires in the United States, accounting for 92% of all civilian fire deaths. Top causes range from cooking incidents and heating and electrical malfunctions to smoking and candle accidents.
The main priority should always be getting yourself and your family, including companion animals, to safety. In some cases that may include putting a fire out yourself. In others, focusing on escape is the best option. That’s why you’ll want to create a home evacuation plan, which should include a floor plan escape grid, and practice it several times until it’s second nature. Do so at regular intervals, at least twice a year. This will give you greater confidence that you’ll know what to do in the event of an emergency and also point out any potential weaknesses you need to correct (for example fixing a hard to open window).
Make sure you have a working smoke detector near each bedroom, ideally a dual-censor one that detects both smoke and fire. You’ll also want to have three specific items in your home that can help extinguish a fire or assist in your escape.
1. Fire extinguisher. Purchase a residential ABC class fire extinguisher, one whose extinguishing agent covers Class A (ordinary combustible materials), Class B (flammable liquids, combustible liquids, and flammable gasses), and Class C (involving energized electrical equipment) fires. You can choose either a single use or reusable extinguisher, keeping in mind that a reusable one must be recharged and refilled and is good for a limited number of years. Also, make sure you place the extinguisher in a central location and that it’s easily accessible, not hidden behind or underneath other items .
2. Fire blankets. These blankets, made of woven glass fiber fabric and fire-retardant film, can put out small fires. Regard them as supplements to, not substitutes for, fire extinguishers. Fire blankets work well on electrical and grease fires, but to be effective, the fire needs to be smaller than the blanket. These blankets can also serve as a wrap when escaping your home, helping protect you from the fire and its heat.
3. Fire escape ladder. If you live in a house or on lower floors of an apartment building or condominium, a fire ladder can be lifesavers if safe escape through a room’s door is no longer an option. Make sure the ladder you choose works with the particular design of your window, that it’s long enough to reach from the window to the ground, and that it can support the weight of the heaviest person in the home. Review how to set up and use the ladder so you won’t be flustered or waste precious time in case of an actual fire.