Emergency Preparedness Step 3 – Preparing For House Fires

*** 7 people die every day from a home fire, most impacting children and the elderly***

Emergency Preparedness Step 3 - House Fires - 5 Ways to Keep Your Family Safe - planforawesomeWelcome to Step 3 of Emergency Preparedness – PREPARING FOR HOUSE FIRES.

**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**

Can I go on a quick tangent here?  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 their house caught on fire and they actually had to use the things they had routinely reviewed.

It’s worth it, people!  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.  Ready?

1. SMOKE DETECTORS

General Smoke Detector Knowledge (if you care):Emergency Preparedness Step 3 - House Fires - 5 Ways to Keep Your Family Safe! - Smoke Alarms

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 smoke detectors are powered: by your home 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 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: If you don’t have smoke detectors, check with your local fire department.  Many of them offer discounted or free smoke alarms.  Hardwired smoke alarms should be installed by qualified electricians.  Some fire departments install battery-powered smoke alarms for free…

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, use this as a group activity!  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.

Emergency Preparedness Step 3 - House Fires - 5 Ways to Keep Your Family Safe! - Smoke Alarms

I usually keep a pack of them at the house at all times.  They will go on a coupon 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 the high-pitched, annoying chirp that a smoke detector makes?  That 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 til 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.Emergency Preparedness Step 3 - House Fires - 5 Ways to Keep Your Family Safe! - Smoke Alarms

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 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.

 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.

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!!!  We purchased this ladder, but I have a confession to make.  We only purchased one, and we had never tested it out.  Until now!  In order to really be helpful, and make it as EASY as possible for you to get prepared, I want to be able to provide links to products that actually work!  So…here is a very impromptu video, 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!  I would highly recommend doing this once receiving your ladder(s).  There is so much value in doing practice runs so that in the event of an emergency, everyone knows what to do, and they know they CAN do it.  Because they’ve done it before.

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.

I just purchased two more, so we have one in each bedroom upstairs.  See?  I’m getting prepared along with you!  Isn’t this SO GREAT?!?!?

4. 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.

In our home, we do an emergency preparedness night (or nights!) every 6 months.  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.  Fire safety is one of the topics we cover.  As we get further into the steps, I will let you know which things we go over as a family, and I’ll even provide a printable with a list of all the things to review with your kids.  Don’t worry.  I’ve got you.  I’ll keep you on a schedule…you’ve just got to do the steps ?

For the fire section of the evening, 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!
  • GET OUT AND STAY OUT!!!!
  • 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 will be different.  Make sure your kids have the tools and knowledge they will need, 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

5. FIREPROOF BOX 

I decided to make a separate post for this step, so this is detailed in Emergency Preparedness Step 4!

CHECKLIST FOR EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS STEP 3 – FIRE SAFETY

  • Smoke detectors – Get familiar with your smoke detectors.  Test them and change batteries if needed.  If they are 10 years old or older, replace them!
  • Fire extinguishers – if you don’t have any in your home, go make that purchase!  This is the one we have.  If you already have fire extinguishers, do the suggested maintenance check on them.  Check the pressure, make sure it’s clean and all parts are undamaged.
  • Fire escape ladders – if you live in a multi-level home or building, make sure you have a fire escape ladder for each room above the first floor.  These are the ones we have.  Consider doing a practice run with the members of your household to ensure everyone knows how to use them.
  • Fire Escape Plan – discuss this as a household and go through the actual steps of exiting the home from each room in the event of a fire.  Each person should know how to exit each room in the house.

Congratulations!  You are now prepared for a house fire!  You have taken the steps necessary to possibly save lives in your household in the event of a fire.  That is no small task.  Doesn’t it feel good?!

Now move on to Emergency Preparedness Step 4 to complete your preparation for a house fire, by getting all your important papers and documents collected, and organized in a fireproof box!

If you just found this blog, or if this is the first emergency preparedness post that you’ve read, go check out Emergency Preparedness Step 1, so you don’t miss any steps to getting your family prepared for all types of emergencies!  Take the steps as slowly as you need to, but just make sure you don’t skip any! 🙂

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