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Are You Prepared for a Potential Fire?

Emergency fire

Nobody like to think about the possibility of a house fire, but every home has the potential to be set ablaze—and the amount of damage done, both to your family and to your finances, is directly related to how much you’ve prepared in advance. There are more than 374,000 house fires every year, resulting in a cumulative cost of more than $8 billion, and leading to the loss of 2,600 lives. But you may be able to save those lives (and protect against those costs) with the right prep work.

Is your family prepared?

Fire Insurance

First, make sure your home is covered by insurance in case of a fire. Many home insurance policies cover damage by fire by default, but sometimes, you’ll need an additional fire insurance policy. Your policy will likely cover structural damage to your home caused by the fire, as well as coverage for valuable possessions you may have lost in that fire. Check your policy to see the monetary limits of your coverage, and adjust your policy if need be. It also pays to document your possessions regularly, so you have evidence of what you own.

Fire Extinguishers

Some home fires can be caught and controlled by an adult if they’re noticed in the early stages. Accordingly, it pays to have a fire extinguisher in areas of your home most prone to fire damage, such as your kitchen. Do note that there are several types of fire extinguishers available, each usable for a different selection of fire “classes.” For example, class A fires involve wood, paper, or textiles, while class B fires involve flammable liquids, and class E fires involve live electrical appliances. Using the wrong fire extinguisher can ultimately make a fire worse, so educate yourself on how to properly use them.

Smoke Detectors

Make sure you have the right number of smoke alarms installed in your home, and maintain them regularly. You’ll want to have at least one smoke detector on every floor of your house, and a smoke detector in every used bedroom. Test your smoke alarms at least once a month to make sure they’re still active, and replace the batteries once a year. These are your first line of defense against a fire, and can alert you to a developing fire long before it poses a threat to your family.

An Emergency Escape Plan

Next, you’ll need to form and go over an emergency escape plan with your family. At a minimum, you should have two solid methods of escape for every room in the house, such as a door that leads to the front entrance and a window that leads to a feasible roof escape. You’ll also want to teach your children how to move and interact in a house that’s filling with smoke. For example, teach them to feel the door for heat before touching a doorknob to avoid burns, and to crawl along the floor to escape to reduce the possibility of smoke inhalation. Practice your escape plan a few times a year so it becomes second nature, and you won’t have to reeducate your family during a real emergency.

Once outside, make sure everyone knows to “stop, drop, and roll” to put out any flames on their person, and to call 911 immediately.

Fire Prevention Habits

Finally, adopt fire prevention habits with your family that can reduce the chances of a fire happening in the first place. These habits include:

  • Never leaving a stove or oven unattended. This should go without saying, especially with a gas-powered stove or oven. Cooking equipment is one of the most common causes of house fires.
  • Never leave candles unattended. A candle may not seem like it’s capable of starting a house fire, but if knocked over or left by flammable materials, it can quickly get out of control.
  • Clean the lint out of your dryer regularly. Dryer lint is highly flammable, so make sure you’re cleaning it out regularly.
  • Store fire-starting items where children can’t get them. Keep your lighters, matches, and other fire-starting equipment in a place where your children can’t get them or play with them.
  • Repair any faulty electrical work proactively. If you notice any old or faulty wiring in your house, get it repaired immediately—before it becomes a problem.
  • Keep your doors closed at night. Make sure you keep your bedroom doors closed at night. This can block smoke, prevent the fire from spreading, and buy you the time you need to escape.

You may not be able to get your risk of a house fire to zero, but you can get it close with these strategies. Remain vigilant, educate your family, and you can minimize both the probability and the severity of a disaster.