Things to Consider
Each year, more than 4,000 Americans die and more than 20,000 are injured in fires, many of which could be prevented. Direct property loss due to fires is estimated at $10 billion annually.
To protect yourself, it is important to understand the basic characteristics of fire.
- Fire spreads quickly.
- There is no time to gather valuables or make a phone call.
- In just two minutes, a fire can become life-threatening.
- In five minutes, a residence can be engulfed in flames.
Heat and smoke from fire can be more dangerous than the flames. Inhaling the super-hot air can sear your lungs. Fire produces poisonous gases that make you disoriented and drowsy. Instead of being awakened by a fire, you may fall into a deeper sleep. Asphyxiation is the leading cause of fire deaths, exceeding burns by a three-to-one ratio.
Take Protective Measures Before
a Fire and Install Smoke Alarms
- Properly working smoke alarms decrease your chances of dying in a fire by half.
- Place smoke alarms on every level of your residence. Place them 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 and clean smoke alarms once a month and replace batteries at least once a year.
- Replace smoke alarms once every 10 years.
How to Plan Your Escape
- Review escape routes with your family. Practice escaping from each room.
- Make sure windows are not nailed or painted shut. Make sure security gratings on windows have a fire safety opening feature so they can be easily opened from the inside.
- Consider escape ladders if your residence has more than one level, and ensure that burglar bars and other anti-theft mechanisms that block outside window entry are easily opened from the inside.
- Teach family members to stay low to the floor (where the air is safer in a fire) when escaping from a fire.
Take Protective Measures to Prevent a Fire involving:
Also remember to:
- Sleep with your door closed.
- Install A-B-C-type fire extinguishers in your residence and teach family members how to use them.
- Consider installing an automatic fire sprinkler system in your residence.
- Ask your local fire department to inspect your residence for fire safety and prevention.
How to Escape a Fire:
- Check closed doors for heat before you open them. If you are escaping through 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 door frame before you open it. Never use the palm of your hand or fingers to test for heat—burning those areas could impair your ability to escape a fire (i.e., ladders and crawling).
- Hot Door
- Do not open. Escape through a window. If you cannot escape, hang a white or light-colored sheet outside the window, alerting fire fighters to your presence.
- Cool Door
- Open slowly and ensure fire and/or smoke is not blocking your escape route. If your escape route is blocked, shut the door immediately and use an alternate escape route, such as a window. If clear, leave immediately through the door and close it behind you. Be prepared to crawl. Smoke and heat rise. The air is clearer and cooler near the floor.
- Crawl low under any smoke to your exit—heavy smoke and poisonous gases collect first along the ceiling.
- Close doors behind you as you escape to delay the spread of the fire.
- Stay out once you are safely out. Do not re-enter. Call 9-1-1.
What To Do After a Fire:
The following are guidelines for different circumstances in the period following a fire:
- If you are with burn victims, or are a burn victim yourself, call 9-1-1; cool and cover burns to reduce chance of further injury or infection.
- If you detect heat or smoke when entering a damaged building, evacuate immediately.
- If you are a tenant, contact the landlord.
- If you have a safe or strong box, do not try to open it. It can hold intense heat for several hours. If the door is opened before the box has cooled, the contents could burst into flames.
- If you must leave your home because a building inspector says the building is unsafe, ask someone you trust to watch the property during your absence.
For More Information
If you would like more information about any of these topics, go to the U.S. Fire Administration's website at usfa.fema.gov.