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Fires affect thousands of Americans and cause billions of dollars in damage every year. Make sure that you and your family are aware of ways to keep yourselves and your home safe. Being aware and prepared can help prevent fires, save lives and minimize property damage.

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Remember that fires are often preventable. Because fires spread quickly, they can be particularly deadly – becoming life threatening in two minutes and engulfing a residence in as little as five minutes. As the fire burns, poisonous gases are emitted that can cause you to become disoriented or drowsy. The leading cause of fire-related deaths is suffocation from lack of oxygen, outnumbering burns by three-to-one.

Take Action Before a Fire

The best supplies for fire preparedness are fire extinguishers and smoke detectors. Keeping your home safe and making an Emergency Plan to deal with a house fire are important steps that you can take to protect yourself and your family.

Steps to Be Ready

  1. Complete the Family Emergency Plan pdf file and discuss it as a family. This is a simple way of keeping each member of the family informed on critical information: where to reconnect should you become separated, who to call, and what you will do should a fire occur.
  2. Complete the Emergency Contacts Card pdf file and place one in every Emergency Kit.
  3. Develop an Emergency Kit. Your Emergency Kit should be easily accessible if you have to leave your home in a hurry, and should account for the needs of each family. Make sure it is ready to go at all times of the year and contains items suitable for the season.

Take Action in Your Home

  • Place smoke alarms on every level of your residence, outside bedrooms on the ceiling or high on the wall (4 to 12 inches from ceiling), at the top of open stairways or at the bottom of enclosed stairs and near (but not in) the kitchen.
  • Test each smoke alarm once a month and replace bad batteries immediately. Replace smoke alarms every 10 years.
  • Keep one or more working fire extinguishers in your home and know how to use them.
  • Never leave something cooking on the stove unattended and keep the cooking area clutter-free.
  • Keep matches and lighters safely out of reach of children.
  • Place heaters at least three feet away from flammable material. Use extreme caution when using alternative heating sources, such as kerosene heaters.
  • Check electrical wiring in your home and have it replaced if it appears frayed or cracked. Do not overload outlets or extension cords.
  • Make sure your home's address can be clearly seen from the street.
  • Sleep with the doors closed. It slows the spread of the fire.

Be Safe with a Fire Escape Plan

  • Make sure all family members know what to do in case of a fire.
  • Draw a floor plan with at least two escape routes from every room of your home.
  • Select a location outside your home where everyone will meet after escaping.
  • Practice your escape plan at least once a month. You can even practice escaping with a blindfold on because the amount of smoke generated by a real fire will likely make it impossible to see.
  • Consider escape ladders for sleeping areas on the second or third floor. Learn how to use them and store them near the window.
  • Practice feeling the door before opening it. If the door is hot, get out another way.
  • Teach children not to hide under beds or in closets in the event of a fire emergency, as this will make it more difficult for firefighters to find them.

Be Safe During a Fire

If you are in a situation where your home is on fire, remember that it is important to evacuate safely and quickly. Remember that both fire and the smoke are both dangerous to you and your family.

Be Safe by Evacuating

Get out of the building as quickly and safely as you can. Don't waste time gathering valuables or making a phone call. Once you're out of the building, don't go back in for any reason.

  • If a door feels hot, do not open it. Do not open any doors except for the ones you have to escape through.
  • If there is smoke in the house, stay low to the ground as you exit to avoid inhaling potentially toxic fumes.
  • Use the stairs to escape and do not use an elevator.
  • Call 9-1-1 or the fire department from a location outside the house.

Take Action After a Fire

After you and your family escape the building, find each other at the pre-designated meeting location to make sure everyone is safe and well. Give first aid where appropriate and have injuries examined and treated by a medical professional. Seriously injured or burned victims should be transported to professional medical help immediately. Listen carefully to what first responders say and deal patiently with urgent situations first.

  • Stay out of damaged buildings. Return home only when local fire authorities say it is safe to enter.
  • Discard food that has been exposed to heat, smoke, or soot.
  • Contact your insurance agent. You can also contact the American Red Cross for assistance at 1-877-597-0747.
  • Don't discard damaged goods until after an inventory has been taken for insurance purposes. Save receipts for money relating to fire loss following the instructions of your insurance agent.

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