House fires are very scary and can easily cause people to panic. The most important thing to do if you find yourself in a house fire is to remain calm – you need to be thinking clearly, making good decisions and acting swiftly. You won’t have a lot of time, so it’s good to have a solid set of action steps mapped out in your head. This guide is meant to teach you the proper procedures to take if you have a house fire.
House Fire: Preparing Yourself and Your Family
One of the most important things you can do for house fire safety is prepare your family ahead of time of appropriate exit routes and rules to follow during a house fire. Sit down with your family and discuss the importance of safely getting out of the house if a fire is in progress. Start with your children, in their rooms, and walk them from their beds through the exit route you’ve mapped out for house fires. Quiz them on it every so often to make sure they know exactly how to exit in case of a house fire.
Also, tell your family to use their voices during a house fire and to speak or yell loudly so that you can find one another and exit safely.
If You Catch the House Fire Early Enough
If you catch the house fire early enough (i.e. if it hasn’t spread too far from it’s point of origin) and you can safely use your fire extinguisher to put the fire out – this is obviously what you’ll want to do. However, this is a very important decision to make, and it’s critical that you use your best judgment and that you consider you and your family’s safety before anything else. If it is even questionable that you won’t be able to extinguish the house fire safely, evacuate the house via your predetermined exit route.
Check Doors Before Opening Them
Before you open any closed doors, you need to check them to see if there is fire directly on the other side. Use the back of your hand to check the door knob first and the areas around the top and frame of the door.
If the door is hot: Do not open it! Opening a hot door will add oxygen to the fire and cause it to burn more quickly, or introduce back drafts and explosive combustion. Look for another door or window that is safer to escape through.
If the door is cool: Open it slowly and make sure that there is not fire or smoke blocking your exit route. If everything is clear, move swiftly and get you and your family out of the house as quickly as possible.
Dealing with Smoke in a House Fire
House fires produce a lot of smoke, and smoke is often the most dangerous aspect of a house fire, as it can cause people to get lost, suffocate and lose consciousness. To protect yourself from smoke in a house fire, the best thing you can do is stay low, and crawl if you need to. Heat, and smoke rises, so if you are standing straight up, you’ll be surrounded in thick smoke, but if you duck down, you’ll see a clear route beneath the cloud of smoke above.
If you have a towel, or an article of clothing near by, use it to cover your face as you move through the house fire beneath the smoke.
If your clothing catches on fire, the old age adage “stop, drop and roll” should be followed. The quickest way to put out a fire is to starve it of oxygen.
Calling 911 During a House Fire
As soon as you get safely outside the house fire, if you have your cell phone on you, call 911 or get to a neighbor as quickly as possible and have them call 911 and alert them of the fire. NEVER go back inside of a house fire once you are out – property can be replaced. It’s important that you adopt this state of mind early and that your concern lies 100% on your safety and the safety of your family – property is a secondary concern and is replaceable.