For fire survival, 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.
- Get a floor plan of your house.
- Discuss with your family which 2 escape routes from each room you will use.
- Discuss how you will communicate and meet if separated, including a meeting place outside and one further away, preferably with relatives.
- Ensure you have smoke alarms. Properly working smoke alarms decrease your chances of dying in a fire by fifty percent. Test them once a month and replace batteries at least once a year.
- Have at least one fire extinguisher in your home, in or close to the kitchen, and make sure everyone in the family knows where it is and how to use it.
- Consider escape ladders if your residence has more than one level, and ensure that burglar bars and other antitheft mechanisms that block outside window entry can be easily opened from the inside.
- Never use gasoline, benzene, naphtha, or similar flammable liquids indoors. Store them in approved containers in well-ventilated storage areas.
- Check with your local fire department on the legality of using kerosene heaters or other alternative heating sources in your community. Be sure to fill kerosene heaters outside, and be sure they have cooled. Place heaters at least three feet away from flammable materials.
- Keep open flames away from walls, furniture, drapery, and flammable items, and keep a screen in front of the fireplace.
- Keep matches and lighters up high, away from children, and, if possible, in a locked cabinet.
- Never smoke in bed or when drowsy or medicated. Provide smokers with deep, sturdy ashtrays.
- Do not overload extension cords or outlets. If you need to plug in two or three appliances, get a UL-approved unit with built-in circuit breakers to prevent sparks and short circuits.
- Inspect extension cords for frayed or exposed wires or loose plugs.
What to Do During a Fire:
- Remain calm and get out.
- If you see smoke under the door, find another way out.
- Feel the door with the back of your hand before you open it. If it is hot, find another way out.
- Drop to the floor to avoid smoke and fumes. Crawl to safety.
- If your clothes catch on fire, STOP where you are, DROP to the ground and ROLL over and over to smother the flames.
- Call 9-1-1 from a safe location. Stay on the line until the operator hangs up.
- If you are trapped in a burning building, stay near a window and close to the floor. Place a rolled towel underneath the door. If possible, signal for help by waving a brightly colored item by the window or shining a flashlight at it.
- Do not go back inside the building unless instructed that it is safe to do so.
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.
Wildfires destroy thousands of homes and many lives every year. There are definite things you need to know and do if you are in an area where wildfires could burn:
- Find out what your fire risk is. Consider having a professional inspect your property and offer recommendations for reducing the wildfire risk.
- Learn and teach safe fire practices. Reduce the risk of starting a fire on your own property.
- Always be ready for an emergency evacuation.
- Create a 30-foot safety zone around the house.
- Create a second zone at least 100 feet around the house.
- Clear all combustibles within 30 feet of any structure.
- Protect your home from fire hazards. For example, remove debris from under sun decks and porches, install spark arrestors in chimneys and stovepipes, use fire resistant siding, etc.
If Caught in the Open:
If hiking in the back country, seek a depression with sparse fuel (sparse dry grass, trees, bushes etc.). Clear fuel away from the area while the fire is approaching and then lie face down in the depression and cover yourself. Stay down until after the fire passes.
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