Here's how to prevent — and be ready for — fires in your home.
Be prepared for small fires by having fire extinguishers placed around your house:
- at least one on each floor
- one in the kitchen (this should be one that can be used on grease and electrical fires)
- one in the basement, the garage, and any workshop area
Always keep fire extinguishers out of reach of children.
When Should We Use a Fire Extinguisher?
Fire extinguishers are best used when a fire is contained in a small area, like a wastebasket, and when the fire department has already been called.
How Should We Use a Fire Extinguisher?
Using the word PASS makes it easier to operate an extinguisher:
- Pull the pin. Release the lock with the nozzle pointing away from you.
- Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the bottom of the fire.
- Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
- Sweep the nozzle from side to side.
The best time to learn how to use a fire extinguisher is now, before you ever need it. Fire extinguishers have gauges on them that show you when they need to be replaced. Check them regularly to make sure they're still working correctly. If you have any questions, the local fire department can help.
If you're ever in doubt about whether to use an extinguisher on a fire, don't try it. Instead, leave the house immediately and call the fire department.
Teaching Kids the Facts About Fire
Unfortunately, many kids will try to hide from a fire, often in a closet, under a bed, or in a corner. By teaching them basic fire safety facts, they'll be better able to protect themselves.
Teach your kids that:
- Fires spread quickly.
- Most fire-related deaths are not from burns but from smoke inhalation.
- Dangerous fumes can overcome a person in just a few minutes.
Kids should learn to:
- Cover their mouths and noses with a moist towel or an article of clothing to keep out dangerous fumes while evacuating.
- Crawl under the smoke to safety, staying as low to the ground as possible (smoke always rises).
- Touch any door (not the doorknob) to see if it is hot, and if it is, not to open it — find another exit.
- Locate the nearest stairway marked "Fire Exit" if they live in an apartment building, or a fire escape if the stairway isn't accessible.
- Avoid elevators during a fire.
- Never stop to take personal belongings or pets or to make a phone call (even to 911) while evacuating.
- Never go back into a burning building once safely outside.
- Stop, drop, and roll to put out flames if an article of clothing catches fire.
Practice Fire Drills at Home
Kids have fire drills at school and adults have them at work. Fires are frightening and can cause panic. By rehearsing different situations, your family will be better prepared in the event of a fire at home.
Plan Escape Routes:
Be sure to plan escape routes, especially in case a fire were to happen at night.
- Plan possible exits for each room in your house.
- Think of two escape routes from each room, in case one is blocked by fire.
- Check the room to make sure that furniture and other objects are not blocking doorways or windows.
- Be sure to know the locations of the closest stairwells or fire escapes and where they lead.
- Practice the escape routes for each room.
- Decide on a safe meeting place outside your house or apartment building.
- Be sure any babysitters in your home know all escape routes and plans in case of a fire.
- Test your plan to see if everyone can be out of the house and at the safe meeting place within 3 minutes.
Make sure that the windows in every room are easy to open and are not painted over or nailed shut. This may be your only way out in a fire. If you live in an apartment building, make sure any safety bars on windows are removable in an emergency.
Check Escape Ladders:
If your house is more than one story tall or if you live above the ground floor of an apartment building, it's important to have an escape ladder.
The escape ladder:
- should be in each upper story bedroom occupied by a person capable of using it
- must be made of fire-safe material like aluminum, not rope
- should be operated by adults only
- must be approved by an independent testing laboratory
- should be of appropriate length for your home
- must support the weight of the heaviest adult in the house
Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: 02/18/2019