Nearly 3,000 people in the United States die in house fires every year. Are you taking every precaution you can to survive a fire in your home? It’s an unpleasant subject, but one that, if ignored, can cost you your belongings, your home, or even your life. During fire prevention week, much of the focus is on how to keep a fire from happening in the first place. But no matter to what lengths you may go to prevent a fire, it may still happen. Wiring inside the walls can be faulty and spark, burning for some time before it’s even noticed. Wildfire can engulf your home, setting it ablaze. And the unforeseen accident is always a possibility. In addition to doing your best to prevent a fire in your home, you must also be prepared should one occur.
Have a home fire safety plan
It’s a scary topic, and one that may be difficult to discuss with your children, but a fire safety plan can save lives as well as your home. Sit your kids down and discuss the dangers of fire. Instruct them on what to do if a fire breaks out. Designate a neighbor’s house as a meeting point should it ever be necessary to evacuate your home because of a fire. Don’t forget to discuss it with your neighbor, too.
Impress upon your children the importance of getting out of the house if it’s on fire, and doing so as quickly as possible. They need to understand that all their toys and other belongings are replaceable — they’re not. Make saving your pets part of your safety plan, too, but explain to your kids that the responsibility for that falls on you, not them. No child should ever re-enter a burning home, even if it’s to save a beloved pet.
Install and test smoke detectors
Most homes have at least one smoke detector, but is it enough? If your home is large, you may need more than one. Smoke alarms have been shown to cut the risk of dying in a fire in half. They’re fairly inexpensive and easy to install, so there’s really no reason not to include them in your home’s fire safety plan.
Once they’re installed around your home, be sure to test them once a month, and change the batteries when necessary to keep them in working order. In house fires where smoke alarms don’t sound, it usually turns out to be because the battery is dead or disconnected. It’s a shame to lose a home — or worse, a family member — because of something as trivial and preventable as a dead battery.
Keep all flammable items away from children
We teach kids from a very young age about hot. We don’t let them eat food that’s still too hot. We don’t let them get too close to the fireplace. But even with all the words of caution, children can be fascinated by fire, and they don’t understand how quickly it can spread and get out of control.
Don’t keep anything that can start or fuel a fire anywhere your kids can get to it. This includes matches, lighters (cigarette, grill, or fireplace), lighter fluid, and especially any kind of fuel kept on hand for things such as lawnmowers or portable heaters. The best place for all those things is outside the home — this includes the garage — in a metal shed with a lockable door. Placing something on a high shelf in a child’s view is just an invitation to climb, also putting the child in danger of falling.
Make sure your homeowner’s insurance covers fire
It may surprise you to know that some homeowner’s insurance policies don’t automatically include coverage for fire loss. Newer policies should include it, but if you’ve lived in your home for a while, and haven’t updated your policy lately, you may not have any fire insurance at all.
Call your insurance company and go over your coverage with an agent. If your policy doesn’t include fire coverage, add it. Even if it increases your premium a little, any amount is worth protecting your home and everything in it. During a fire, the immediate concern is getting everyone out of the house safely. But afterward, you’ll need a place to live. You’ll need clothes, beds, everything to continue living day-to-day. Without insurance, you won’t be able to replace those things very easily, if at all.
We hope you won’t ever have to suffer through a house fire and the difficult aftermath. But it’s always best to be prepared not just for the possibilities you can think of, but also for the ones you can’t.