Each year, more than 4,000 Americans die and more than 25,000 are injured in fires, many of which could be prevented. Direct property loss due to fires is estimated at $8.6 billion annually.
To protect yourself, it is important to understand the basic characteristics of fire. Fire spreads quickly; there is no time to gather valuables or make a phone call. In just two minutes, a fire can become life-threatening. In five minutes, a residence can be engulfed in flames.
Heat and smoke from fire can be more dangerous than the flames. Inhaling the super-hot air can sear your lungs. Fire produces poisonous gases that make you disoriented and drowsy. Instead of being awakened by a fire, you may fall into a deeper sleep. Asphyxiation is the leading cause of fire deaths, exceeding burns by a three-to-one ratio.
- Install smoke alarms on every level of your residence.
- Place smoke alarms outside bedrooms on the ceiling or high on the wall (4 to 12 inches from ceiling), at the top of open stairways, or at the bottom of enclosed stairs and near (but not in) the kitchen.
- Test and clean smoke alarms once a month and replace batteries at least once a year.
- Review escape routes with your family and where to meet outside of the house. Practice escaping from each room in the house.
- Consider escape ladders if your residence has more than one level.
- Teach family members to stay low on the floor (where the air is safer in a fire) when escaping from a fire.
- Store flammable liquids in approved containers in well-ventilated storage areas. Do not smoke near flammable liquids.
- Sleep with your door closed.
- Install fire A-B-C type fire extinguishers in your residence and teach family members how to use them.
- If escaping from a fire, check closed doors for heat before you open them with the back of your hand. Do not open a hot door; escape through a window. If you cannot escape, hang a white or light-colored sheet outside the window to alert emergency responders to your presence.
- If your clothes catch on fire, you should Stop, Drop, and Roll until the fire is extinguished. Running will only make the fire burn faster.
- Close doors behind you as you escape to delay the spread of the fire.
- If you are with burn victims, or are a burn victim yourself, call 9-1-1; cool and cover burns to reduce chance of further injury or infection.
- If you detect heat or smoke when entering a damaged building, evacuate immediately.
- If you are a tenant, contact the landlord.
- If you have a safe or strong box, do not try to open it. It can hold intense heat for several hours. If the door is opened before the box has cooled, the contents could burst into flames.
- If you must leave your home because a building inspector says the building is unsafe, ask someone you trust to watch the property during your absence.