Time is your biggest enemy when escaping from a burning building. In less than 30 seconds, a small flame can get completely out of control and turn into a major fire. It only takes minutes for a house to become filled with smoke and engulfed in flames.
Proper planning may make the difference between life and death.
Creating an Escape Plan
- Draw a map of your home showing all doors and windows. (The NFPA offers a template to help.) Your escape plan should outline at least two exits from each room in your home in the event of a fire. If the primary exit is blocked by fire or smoke, you will need a second way out.
- Walk through your home and make sure all doors and windows open easily and your escape paths are clear.
- Choose a meeting place (a neighbor’s house, light post, tree, etc.) a safe distance from your home where everyone can meet after escaping.
- Practice your home fire drill at night and during the day with everyone in your home, at least twice a year.
If the Alarm Sounds…
- Don’t waste time trying to save your personal property. Instead, take the safest exit route.
- When coming to a closed door, use the back of your hand to feel the top of the door, the doorknob and the crack between the door and the frame to make sure that the fire is not directly outside. If the door feels hot, use the secondary exit. If the door feels cool, brace yourself against it and open it slowly.
- If you must escape through smoke, crawl low under the smoke and cover your mouth.
- Closing the doors behind you can help slow the spread of smoke, heat and fire.
- Call the fire department from outside your home.
- Never go back into a burning home for any reason.
Preventing a Fire
Fires can lead to especially severe claims. Protect your home by doing the following:
- Keep a close eye on your kitchen when cooking. According to the National Fire Protection Association, cooking equipment is the leading cause of house fires.
- If you use a space heater, don’t use extension cords, keep it upright on a flat, stable surface and keep flammable material at least three feet away from the heater.
- Don’t leave candles burning unattended.
- Don’t smoke while drowsy, and always dispose of cigarette butts responsibly.
- Make sure your fire alarms and fire extinguishers are working properly. Smoke alarms should be installed in every sleeping room, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. They should also be interconnected, so when one alarm sounds, they all sound.
For more tips on preventing house fires, and what to do if one occurs, visit the Ready.gov page on home fires. Take a moment to think about your homeowners insurance as well. If you haven’t updated your policy in the last year, contact your Higginbotham agent for a review.
Sources: Zywave; NFPA