House fires start due to candles, electrical systems, smoking, appliances, et cetera et cetera. Small-scale fires, like a cooking pan catching fire, may be controlled and extinguished if there’s a fire extinguisher in the house. So, one of the first things you need to do – if you haven’t done yet, is to get a fire extinguisher and learn how to operate it. But sometimes, fires start when you sleep or when you are in another part of the house. And depending on the combustibility of the home items, fire spreads really fast.
While not all fires are the same, not all home layouts are the same, and not all situations are the same, there are some must-do rules everyone must follow. After all, the goal is to primarily get out of the house and be safe. And the problem with house fires is not just the quick spread of the flames but also the smoke and soot – both of which may cause serious problems, even death.
So, what should you do if a house fire starts?
* Follow your family’s house fire exit plan – prepare it beforehand.
* If you don’t have an exit plan, think of the closest exit and try to get to it as fast as possible.
* As you exit rooms, close the doors behind you to slow down the fire’s expansion.
* If you can keep a damp cloth on your mouth and nose, it will minimize the inhalation of smoke and soot.
* Yell ‘fire’ to alarm everyone in the house to get to an exit too.
* If you keep the phone with you, call 911. If you cannot find your phone, try to get out and then go to a neighbor to call the fire service.
* If there are flames on your way out of the house, stay low – better crawl than walk.
* If you must open closed doors, do so with caution. If there’s fire or smoke behind it, close it quickly and find a new exit route.
What if your clothes catch fire?
Stop where you are, drop on the floor, cover your face to protect it, and roll back and forth non-stop and until the flames go out. If you cannot do that, cover your body with blankets or towels to smother the fire.
What if you are stuck in a room?
If the flames and smoke have blocked your exit routes and you are stuck in the room, try to keep the fire out of the room by putting damp clothing and fabrics under the door. Try to signal ‘help’ by standing in front of the window. Also, call the local firefighters.
What you must NOT do if there’s a house fire
Do not open doors that feel hot. There’s probably fire on the other side. This won’t be your exit route and the contained fire will find a new route to spread farther.
* If you make it all the way to the exit or out of the house, don’t go back to the building.
* If there’s an elevator in the house, don’t use it. Use the stairs.
* Do not stall by trying to find and collect valuable items to take with you. Run for your life.
What to do once you are out of the burning house
It’s important to stay out and remain in a safe place. If you haven’t called the fire department, now it’s the time to do so.
After the fire is out, you will need to make a few more calls – to a fire damage restoration company, your insurance company, a mortgage company – if any, family members. It’s crucial that you don’t return to the house until the authorities tell you that it’s okay to do so. And even when you do, it’s important to avoid connecting utilities or try to repair things yourself. Leave the complete rebuild and repair services to professional crews to avoid after-fire accidents. Remember that the fire’s soot and smoke are as dangerous as the flames and remain behind for quite some time. So, don’t visit your home even if it’s still standing until you get the green light from the fire and smoke damage restoration team.
If you are reading these lines and want to know what you must do in the event of a fire, remember that the best thing to do is to prepare an exit plan for the whole family and practice this house fire escape plan with your family a few times.