Surviving a House Fire

What to Do to Survive a House Fire

House fires are a top cause of death and property damage in the United States. Many people lose their homes and lives every year to fires that could have been prevented. Learning how to plan fire drills and prepare the right equipment can help you and your family survive a house fire.

House Fire Statistics

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), more than 490,000 house fires occurred in 2020. These fires resulted in:

  • 2,730 deaths, not including the firefighters that lost their lives
  • 13,000 injuries
  • $12.1 billion in property loss

Types of Fire

There are five classes of fire based on the fuel that is burning. Each type involves different flammable materials and requires a unique method to distinguish it. Experts say fighting a fire with the wrong approach might worsen the situation.

  • Type A fires involve flammable materials like wood, paper, plastic, cloth, and rubber.
  • Type B fires contain combustible liquids like gas, propane, motor oil, and paint.
  • Type C fires involve electrical equipment like appliances, motors, controls, wiring, and machinery.
  • Type D fires involve flammable metals like lithium, magnesium, and titanium.
  • Type K fires involve cooking oils and greases.

Common Causes of a House Fire

House fires are often the result of irresponsible behavior, unintentional negligence, or product defects. The NFPA has identified the top five causes of house fires.

Some fires are unavoidable, such as those caused by a lightning strike.

Why Are House Fires so Deadly?

A fire can engulf a house in a matter of minutes. If the fire happens in the middle of the night while everyone is asleep, you can lose precious minutes while you’re waking up to get your bearings. In these cases, the best way to survive is early warning. Ensure that your smoke alarms are working. Check them once a month and replace the batteries twice a year. If a fire occurs at night, the alarm will notify you and allow you enough time to escape.

Preventing a Fire

  • Do not let flammable materials like trash and newspaper pile up.
  • Ensure portable heaters will turn off if tipped over.
  • Clean chimneys yearly to avoid fires.
  • Check your electronics to ensure they don’t have exposed or frayed wires.
  • Store any coals outside in a sealed metal container.
  • Ensure candles, fireplaces and stoves are entirely extinguished and shut off before leaving your house.

Plan an Escape Route

Everyone in your household should know what to do in case of a fire. The evacuation plan should involve leaving your home immediately and meeting at a designated area outside the house far away from the fire. Once everyone has safely evacuated, call 911.

If the main escape route is blocked by smoke or fire, you must find another way out. Climbing out the windows is an excellent way to evacuate the house. Consider getting collapsible ladders for second-floor bedrooms if you live in a two-story house.

Most fire-related deaths are not caused by the fire. Lack of oxygen, heated air, and smoke are the leading causes. When evacuating through a smoke-filled room, it is essential to crawl below the level of the smoke to avoid breathing it.

What Do in a House Fire?

  • Use a Fire Extinguisher: Have a fire extinguisher nearby to fight the fire. If the fire is too big or you can’t get to your fire extinguisher safely, evacuate the house instead.
  • Alert Everyone: Yell and alert everyone in your house that there is a fire.
  • Leave Your Belongings: Do not try to save your pictures or other special mementos on your way out. There are no material objects that are worth your life.
  • Stay Low: Hot, smokey air will rise up toward the ceiling, so stay low where there will be more oxygen and less smoke.
  • Cover Your Nose: Use a towel or damp cloth to cover your mouth. It can help filter out some of the smoke.
  • Close the Doors: Close the doors to any rooms as you leave. This will slow down the spread of fire and make it possible for everyone to escape safely.
  • Protect Your Pets: If you have pets, include them in your evacuation plan. Train them to come to you when you call and practice taking them with you. Have their own emergency kit ready and have a safe place for them to stay temporarily if you need to leave your home.
  • Call 911: Wait until you have safely made it outside before calling 911.
  • Meet at Your Designated Area: Make sure everyone is there at the meeting area. Do not go off to another spot because if your family doesn’t see you there, they may try to rescue you, thinking you are still inside the burning house.
  • Stay Outside: Once you have made it safely outside, stay put. Going back into the burning house is dangerous.

Knowing what to do if a family member does not make it to the designated area is essential. Firefighters warn never to go back into a burning house, but if one of your children is still inside, we all know the warning goes out the window. Having a backup plan before running back into your house is critical.

Should You Fight the Fire?

If the flames are small and you believe you can fight them safely, then you definitely should fight the fire. Once you successfully have the fire contained, check the site to ensure there are no flare-ups. However, if you can no longer control the blaze, evacuate the area immediately and call for help. According to the American Red Cross, it takes just five minutes for a house to be entirely consumed in a fire.

Watch YouTube Video: 9 Tips to Survive a Fire in a Hopeless Situation. The video below explains what you need to do to significantly increase your chances of surviving a house fire.

Sacramento Burn Injury Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a burn injury attorney in Sacramento. Burn injuries in a house fire are painful and can be deadly. If you have suffered severe trauma in a burning accident caused by someone else’s negligence, call our skilled and knowledgeable injury attorneys at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free and friendly case advice.

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