It’s a sad fact that each year 4,000 people die in house fires and over 25,000 are injured. The most important home improvement you may ever make is to implement safety measures to protect you and your family from this deadly hazard. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers several their site to make sure your home is not a fire hazard.
First, it helps to understand some basic facts about a house fire.
- Fire spreads fast. Don’t try to stop and gather valuables—it could cost you your life. It only takes a fire two minutes to become a life-threatening fire. It only takes five minutes for a fire to completely engulf a home.
- It’s not just the flames that can hurt you. Heat and smoke can be even more dangerous than the flames. Inhaling heated air can sear your lungs. A fire produces poisonous gases that make you disoriented and drowsy—you may fall into an even deeper sleep and die from asphyxiation.
Now that you understand how quickly a fire can get out of control, your next step is to implement some safety strategies in your home. First of all, FEMA recommends installing smoke alarms. Put them on every level of your residence. Place them outside bedrooms, at the top of open stairways or at the bottom of enclosed stairs and near the kitchen. The alarms should be placed on the ceiling or high on the wall close to the ceiling.
Test and clean the smoke alarms and replace the batteries at least once a year. Make it a habit to replace the batteries on the same date every year, choosing a date that is easy to remember, such as a birthday or holiday.
Gasoline, benzine, naptha or other flammable liquids should be used and stored outside of the house. If you smoke, don’t smoke in bed; store your cigarettes, matches and lighters away from children. Be sure your utility room is clear of debris and dust and the area around your furnace is uncluttered. Schedule a yearly furnace inspection. If you use a space heater, allow for a three-foot clearance from any objects. Use a fireplace screen to keep sparks contained.
Have your general contractor or electrician update your electrical wiring if the code has changed since it was installed. When making other home improvements to your home, be sure you follow updated code and safety procedures. Finally, keep several fire extinguishers handy.
One of the most important ways you can protect your family is by creating an escape plan. Regularly hold drills where you practice the plan. Buy window ladders for each room on the second story. Show your children how to crawl out the windows. Little children should be assigned to an adult or teen. Teach your children to stay low and crawl underneath smoke and instruct them not to bring toys or to go searching for pets. Also, show them how to cover their mouths and noses with their shirts to protect their lungs.
Remember to show your children a picture of a firefighter in full gear. This can be scary to a child, and you don’t want your children hiding from the firefighter or the fire. Designate a safe spot for the family to meet after escaping from the fire.
Being prepared and ready can help you and your family think clearly and calmly in the event that an emergency does occur and enable you to get out quickly and safely. Do everything you can to prevent your home from becoming the next statistic.