This is the time of year when families are putting up holiday trees and decorations as well as candles and other goodies that will provide their homes with a warm and inviting ambiance. Something I have not seen mentioned in the prepping world is fire prevention – especially as it relates to prepping your home so it will not go up in smoke and flames.
Today I share with you some tips for preventing a fire in your home along with some tips for surviving a home fire.
Fires are a Problem
Fires are a problem, more so than commonly known Almost 4,000 people die annually from fires in the United States and about a third of those deaths are from home fires.
Common causes of home fires are cooking, baseboard and space heating, careless smoking, electrical malfunctions and arson. Even more surprising is that most fires are human-caused and are preventable, while only a small percentage of fires are actually due to natural acts such as lightening.
So how does a fire start? Three elements in a just right combination are required: heat, fuel and oxygen. When these three elements are in place and combustion occurs, given a good source of fuel, a home can be destroyed in very short period of time.
Think of this scenario: a dry evergreen tree, a space heater nearby connected to a mis-wired or rounded electrical outlet and a bit of air from an open window. It does not take long to imagine the disaster that is waiting to happen.
So what can you do now to prevent a fire from occurring in your home? Well, there are no guarantees and accidents do happen, but hopefully these suggestions will insure that you have a safe holiday season without fear that a fire will destroy your home and precious belongings.
Tips for Preventing a Fire in Your Home
Learn how to prevent fires in and around your home. Common fire causes include: cooking, smoking, heaters, candles, electrical, arson, and children playing with fire.
Install and maintain smoke detectors on every level of your home and inside and outside every bedroom. Most fatal fires happen at night while you’re sleeping and you will not smell the smoke, even
Unplug unused heaters when you go to bed at night or leave your home for any period of time.
Have a fire extinguisher available and know when and how to use it. The minimum recommended size is 2A:10BC.
Plan and physically practice a home escape plan as part of your family disaster plan. Plan two ways out of every room and practice how to safely exit each room in the event of a fire.
Do not block room exits with furniture or excess clutter
Provide escape ladders for stories above the first level and make sure you practice using them.
Designate one outside meeting place so everyone in your family knows where to meet once you are outside. This place should be far enough away to keep you out of danger but close enough that firefighters can account for you.
If you live in an multiple-family residence or assisted living facility, learn what the emergency evacuation procedures are for your complex. Make sure you are familiar with the building’s fire protection systems, what they sound like, how they activate, and what to do if the alarm goes off.
Be sure to plan for family members with special needs who may require assistance.
And special for the holidays:
Keep your holiday tree well watered and located away from heaters, fireplaces and candles. If you are using an artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.
Do not leave holiday lights on when you are away from home.
Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
Consider battery-operated candles. These days they are quite realistic and can be used year after year.
Do not locate your holiday tree or decorations in front of a room exit.
Nine things to do if there is a fire in your home
Although you may have done everything you can to mitigate the chance of a home fire, stuff happens. Perhaps a houseguest misplaced a cigarette or perhaps a space heater tipped over unintentionally. The important thing is to be ready.
Below is a plan of action that outlines nine things to do if a fire starts in your home. These are things that you may already know but when a fire does happen, you may panic and forget.
1. If a fire starts, alert others and get out of the building. This includes your pets. A fire can easily travel through a house in less than five minutes.
2. On your way out the door, grab your Bug-Out-Bag that is stocked with flashlights, emergency blankets, copies of your important documents on a flash drive and prescription meds.
3. Only fight a fire if the fire is small, you know how to use a fire extinguisher, and your way out will not be blocked if the fire gets too big.
4. If you’re primary escape route is filled with smoke, use your second way out. If you must escape through the smoke, stay low under the smoke and crawl quickly to safety, keeping your mouth and nose covered.
5. Once outside the building, stay outside – do not go back into the building that is on fire, even if you think the fire is still small.
6. Go to the designated outside meeting place where everyone can be accounted for.
7. Call 9-1-1 to get help.
8. If you cannot get out, stay in a room (as far away from the fire as possible) with the door closed and do your best to protect yourself in place. The more barriers and space you put between the fire and you, the greater your chance of survival. If you can, signal firefighters at a window for help. If you have a phone in the room call 9-1-1 and report your location.
9. If your clothes catch on fire – stop, drop and roll. Stop where you are, drop to the ground, and roll until the fire is out. Cool the burned skin with water, if available, and seek medical attention.
The Final Word
A home fire (whether house, condo or apartment) can be one of those horrific events that will leave you not only without shelter and belongings, but with an emotional void that comes when you realize that your must start over from scratch. Hopefully you will have insurance, but even then, the process of rebuilding can be be expensive and physically and mentally draining.
This holiday season, remember to take reasonable care when it comes to fire prevention and also to take steps to insure that if a fire occurs, you and your loved ones will survive,
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
Gaye Levy, also known as the Survival Woman, grew up and attended school in the Greater Seattle area. After spending many years as an executive in the software industry, she started a specialized accounting practice offering contract CFO work to emerging high tech and service industries. She has now abandoned city life and has moved to a serenely beautiful rural area on an island in NW Washington State. She lives and teaches the principles of a sustainable and self-reliant lifestyle through her website at BackdoorSurvival.com. At Backdoor Survival, Gaye speaks her mind and delivers her message of prepping with optimism and grace, regardless of the uncertain times and mayhem swirling around us.