Simplify Your Family's Emergency Preparedness

How to Prepare Your Family For a House Fire

2 story home in flames at nighttime.

7 people die every day from a house fire, mostly impacting children and the elderly.


This is such a sad statistic, because so many of these deaths could be prevented with just a little education and preparation.  So let’s get to it!

**This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

I think a big reason for people not being motivated to tackle “EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS” is that the likelihood of having to use any of this stuff is pretty low.  Or at least we think it is.  Until something unexpected happens to us.


I don’t think a single person would ever regret going over fire safety with their family every once in a while, if at some point they experience a house fire and they actually had to use the things they had routinely reviewed.


It’s worth it!  I would rather be the mom who reviewed these things every 6 months with my kids and never had to use any of it, than be the mom who didn’t review anything, and put my kids’ lives in danger if it happened to us.  This is not an area to be ignored.


And don’t leave it to the schools to teach them.  Don’t assume someone else has covered this topic with your kids.  Even if they have discussed fire safety at school, they haven’t discussed your specific home.  They haven’t helped your children work through the process of finding something in their room that is tall enough to get them to the window, unlocking their window, pushing the screen out, and climbing out.  They haven’t discussed your specific fire escape plan.


Take the time.  Commit to doing this.  This week.  Make it a priority. 


Even if you don’t have kids…most of these things will still apply to you. 


1 - Smoke Detectors

General Smoke Detector Knowledge (if you care):

A hand opening a smoke alarm.

two types of smoke detectors

There are two types of smoke detectors: ionization and photoelectric.  Basically, make sure you either have both kinds, or dual sensor ($24 and up) smoke alarms.  It is best if they are interconnected so that when one goes off, they all go off.

How are smoke detectors powered?

Smoke detectors are powered by your home’s electrical system and/or batteries. If they are powered by your home electrical system (hardwired), they will also have a backup battery which ought to be changed yearly.  If solely powered by battery, they will either be powered by a disposable 9-Volt battery, which should be replaced yearly, or a long-life lithium battery, which should last about 10 years.  You don’t replace the batteries in the lithium battery powered alarms…you replace the entire alarm after 10 years.

Where should smoke detectors be?

Smoke detectors should be inside and outside each bedroom/sleeping area, on every level of the home.  They should be installed on the ceiling or high on the wall.

Installing Smoke Detectors

Hardwired smoke alarms should be installed by qualified electricians. If you don’t have smoke detectors and can’t afford them/install them, check with your local fire department.  Many of them offer discounted smoke alarms based on need.

Maintenance of Smoke Detectors

How and When to test Your Smoke Alarms

We all know we should test our smoke detectors.  But do we all know how and how often to check our smoke detectors?


Regardless of the type of alarm, or its source of power, each alarm should be tested monthly.  Each alarm should have a test button.  Get a ladder, push the test button, and plug your ears!


**Kid Tip: I like to INCLUDE my kids in this process.  Instead of just being another thing on your list to do while ignoring your kids, involve them!  Not only will they feel involved and included in what you are doing, but you will be teaching them the value of being prepared, which they will take with them as they get older.  They will also know what the smoke alarm sounds like, and will know what it is, should it ever sound in a real emergency (my kids are already lucky enough to be familiar with the sound, due to my…eh hem…overcooking of a couple meals over the years).

How and When to replace batteries in your smoke alarms

Every smoke alarm is different, but most of them run on one 9-volt battery.  This is what a 9-Volt battery looks like:

A hand holding a 9-volt battery.

I usually keep a pack of these in my home at all times.  They will go on sale at Costco every few months, so that’s a great time to grab a pack! 


You want to have these BEFORE you need them.  Have you ever heard that high-pitched, annoying chirp that a smoke detector makes?  The purpose of that chirp is to alert you that the battery is low and needs to be changed.  This always seems to happen in the middle of the night!  And trust me – you don’t want to have to wait until morning to go to the store to buy a 9-Volt battery.  Do yourself (and your whole household) a favor, and keep these on-hand!


It is recommended to replace these batteries once a year.  However, as I mentioned, there is usually a built-in chirp to let you know when the battery is low.

A smoke alarm opened so you can see the battery compartment.

ALL SMOKE DETECTORS should be completely replaced every 10 years!

Here is a video, showing you what our smoke detectors look like, how to test them, and how to change the batteries in them.  EASY PEASY!

2 - Fire Extinguishers

Types of Fire Extinguishers

  • A – For use with ordinary materials like cloth, wood, and paper
  • B – For use with combustible and flammable liquids like grease, gasoline, oil, and oil-based paints
  • C – For use with electrical equipment like appliances, tools, or other equipment that is plugged in
  • D – For use with flammable metals
  • K – For use with vegetable oils, animal oils, and fats in cooking appliances

There are multipurpose fire extinguishers (affiliate link) that are labeled “B-C” or “A-B-C”

When to Use a Fire Extinguisher

Fire extinguishers work well on small fires, contained to a single object.  Before grabbing the fire extinguisher, you should ensure you are safe from toxic smoke, and also have an escape route, should you not be able to put the fire out.

man using a fire extinguisher to put out an oven fire.

How to Use a Fire Extinguisher

Use the acronym PASS

  • Pull the pin.  Point the nozzle away from you and release the locking mechanism.
  • Aim low, at the base of the fire.
  • Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
  • Sweep the nozzle from side to side.
**At the end of this post, you will be able to snag a free printable to attach to your fire extinguishers.  Most fire extinguishers will have the instructions printed on the label, but this printable is so much more visible and easier to read (especially when you are panicking in an emergency situation)!

Where to Keep a Fire Extinguisher

Be sure to put fire extinguishers in easily accessible places in your home.  We have one downstairs and one upstairs.  Ideally, we would have one in every room, but we just have one on each level of our home.  Be sure you have one in/close to the kitchen!

Maintaining a Fire Extinguisher

These are pretty low maintenance.  Some require you to shake them once a month, but ours doesn’t.  Most of them will have a pressure gauge that you should check monthly, to make sure it is at the correct pressure.  While checking the pressure, you should inspect the can, hoses, and nozzles, to ensure they aren’t dented, damaged, or rusted.  You should also keep it clean from dust or oil.

3 - Fire Escape ladders

This is obviously only something you need if you live in a multi-level home/building.  I haven’t had to worry about this until moving to our current house.  It’s something you may not have thought of, that could save lives!!! 


I have a confession to make.  Ours sat untouched in our bedrooms for a couple of years, and I had never tested it out. 

So…here are some very impromptu videos, taken on a Sunday morning, with half the kids still in pajamas, half of them already dressed for church, you get the idea.  Like I said, this was impromptu.  But I wanted to give you a REAL LIFE trial run! 


Please note: the listing for this fire escape ladder says it is for ONE-TIME USE ONLY.  There are 2 reasons for that: (1) It is packaged and folded in a way that makes it easy and quick to deploy in an emergency. If you un-do the straps and the velcro, you run the risk of folding it up wrong, thus causing it to get tangled up when you try to use it.  (2) If it is used in a real fire, the heat could compromise the strength of the materials, and the ladder should be discarded.



This exact ladder can be found HERE on Amazon.  Be sure to get the correct length…this link is for a ladder for a 2 story home.  There is an option for a 3 story ladder on this link as well.

4 - Fire Escape Plan

3 Elements of Your Fire Escape Plan

There are a few basic suggestions to have in place with a fire escape plan.  They are:


  • Know 2 ways out of every room
  • Have a meeting place outside your home
  • Practice your escape plan with everyone who lives in the home at least twice a year.

Things to Review

In our home, we do an emergency preparedness weekend every 6 months, where we rotate things like 72-hour kits, check things like smoke alarms, and review things like fire escape plans.  A great way to time this is to do it every time you change your clocks.  That is a natural way to keep track of when it’s been 6 months since the last review.  


For the fire review, we discuss a few fire safety tips.


  • Call 911
  • Don’t Hide, Go Outside!
  • Fall and Crawl (stay low to the ground)
  • Feel the bottom of the door and the doorknob with the palm of your hand. If it’s hot, don’t go out!
  • If you catch on fire, STOP, DROP, & ROLL!
  • Firemen are your friends – you can go with them!!

Then we discuss our emergency exit plan.  We walk around the house together, discussing how we would exit each room.  There are things you may not have thought about until actually doing it, so be sure to not just tell the kids what to do, but HAVE THEM DO IT


For instance, the first time we did this, I realized my kids didn’t even know how to unlock our windows.  When they went to do it themselves, they weren’t tall enough to reach the lock.  So then we needed to get a stool.  See where I’m going with this?  This evolved into making sure everyone had a stool in their room (just a little cheapy stool works just fine), so they could REACH the window!  Some of the rooms have beds under the window, which is helpful.  Each room is different. 


The important thing, is to make sure your kids have the tools and knowledge they will need in order to actually get themselves out. 

Show them start to finish, and then have them do it.


    • Unlock the window
    • Open the window
    • Push out the screen
    • Crawl out of the window
    • Run to your designated safe place

Make Sure You Get it All

If you’d like more help with this topic and discussion, I highly recommend doing the Quick & Easy Preparedness Challenge.  One of the main focuses in that challenge is getting your entire home and family prepared for house fires.  For the last week of the challenge, there is a one-page printable guide of things to discuss with your family for 5 different topics (one for each day), and House Fires is one of the topics!

5 - Fireproof Box

This is a little project in and of itself, so I have a separate post to help you find the right fireproof box and get everything organized.


1 - House Fire Preparedness Checklist

2 - Fire Extinguisher Free Printable

Fire Extinguisher with Free Printable Instructions tied to it

To get your free printable FIRE EXTINGUISHER INSTRUCTIONS  PRINTABLE, fill out this form and you’ll get the download link in your email inbox! 


The printable comes with 4 to a page, so be sure to put one on each fire extinguisher that you have (don’t forget the ones in your cars)!

Thank you for joining my email list!  I can’t wait to spoil you with freebies and I  promise to keep your email address private. ❤️

3 - Additional House Fire Resources

House fires are no joke.  If you are wanting to REALLY get this done, 100%, with help all the way, I hope you’ll join the Quick & Easy Preparedness Challenge. We don’t just talk the talk – we actually walk the walk in this challenge.

Not only do we dive deep into fire extinguishers, fire ladders, smoke/CO alarms, and family emergency plans, but we also cover a wide variety of other topics that families are most likely to encounter. 

In addition, there are 24 Q&A videos with a firefighter, just as BONUS material!  There is SO MUCH to learn about house fires, things you can do to prevent them, and things you can do to keep your family and home safe.  

Check out the Quick & Easy Preparedness Challenge here!

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