In the United States, between 1977 and 2012, there have been an average of 1315 house fires causing 10 deaths and an average of 48 people injured. Every Day.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, ‘A few facts at the household level‘, the chance that your household will have a reported house fire is 1 in 4. House fires are one of the most common disasters you are likely to face. Thankfully, there are some things that you can do to help limit your risk to a house fire, and possibly reduce or eliminate the physical risk they pose to you and yours.
Characteristics of a House Fire
These are some basic facts about fire that might help you to better understand the dangers of a house fire.
- Fire is Fast
It is not uncommon for a small fire (stove fire, overturned oil lamp, etc) to get completely out of control in under 30 seconds. According to the Red Cross, you may have two minutes or less to escape a home fire. You need to have an escape plan for how to get out of your home in case of fire, and you need to practice it.
- Fire is Hot
The heat from the fire, more than the flames themselves, is a real danger. Room temperatures in a home fire can range from 100 degrees at floor level, to 600 or more degrees at eye level. Inhaling the super-hot air inside a home fire will scorch your lungs, and can itself be deadly. At these temperatures, your clothes may melt to your skin and ‘flashovers’ can occur (where everything in the room ignites at once).
- Fire is Dark
Everyone expects fire to bring light, but inside a burning home the black smoke can cause the inside to be completely dark. Waking up to a fire, you may be blinded, disoriented and unable to find your way around the house that has been your home for years. This is one reason why practicing your escape plan is so important.
- Fire is Deadly
Of course, the flames of a fire are deadly, but there is a lot more to fire that is just as dangerous. Black smoke, superheated air, a lack of oxygen and other dangers like poisonous gas cause fire to be exceedingly dangerous. The longer a fire burns without your knowing about it, the worse your chances of survival become. Installing smoke detectors throughout your home, and testing them frequently, can save lives!
Ways to Protect Yourself
You’ve all heard this before, but it’s true; smoke detectors save lives. One of the big problems with smoke detectors though is batteries. While the batteries tend to last a year or more, they do go dead and if you don’t test your smoke detectors regularly, well, they may not be there when you need them.
Install smoke detectors and test them regularly.
We at DisasterRidge are big fans of wired smoke detectors, ones that have battery backups. (And no, just because they are wired does not mean that you don’t have to test them regularly!)
Develop an Escape Plan
Get your family together and develop an escape plan. You should try for two routes out of each major room in the home. Consider drawing a floor plan. The Red Cross has put together this free Fire Escape Planning Grid which you can use to draw up and print out your own escape plan.
Remember what we said above about fire being dark? Imagine waking up to a fire in the middle of the night, when you may have only two minutes to escape and you are drowsy, disoriented and possibly already affected from smoke inhalation or toxic gasses. You have two minutes or less to get out, but you can’t see well, and you are starting to panic. If you have not developed and PRACTICED an escape plan, it could mean your life.
Finally, if a fire occurs in your home, GET OUT and STAY OUT. Remember that there is simply NO TIME to try and rescue any belongings. You may consider developing a bolt bag. Something to keep under your bed that you can grab quickly during an evacuation, something like the Maxpedition Mongo Versipack (Black)
Here are some quick suggestions for that bolt bags contents:
- Rescue Essentials First Responder Kit
- Emergency Water Packets
- Tac Force Assisted Opening EMS/EMT Rescue Knife
- Fire Blanket
- Glass Breaker
- Pre-Paid Cellphone
One note about the cell phone or any other battery powered device. These need to be recharged periodically or have the batteries changed. In fact, you should add an overall review of your bolt bags contents to the smoke alarm testing cycle. Every time you test your smoke alarms, review the contents of the bag for anything that needs replaced or re-charged.