House fire is common than you might imagine. Careless mistakes in your home’s kitchen, garage and laundry room can have grave implications. In the unfortunate event of a house fire, knowing what to do can make all the difference.
A house fire can quickly become uncontrollable, leaving little time to react, so having a clear plan is critical for your safety and other household members. Recent research shows house fires account for almost 2,500 fatalities annually, making preparedness and quick decision-making essential.
Of course, prevention is the best approach towards fire safety, but in the event of a house fire, you’ll need to know what to do. Let’s unfold the measures to take during a house fire in the guide below.
What to Do in the Event of a House Fire
Here are some of the things that you should do if there’s fire outbreak in your house:
- Put Out the Fire If Possible
If the fire has just sparked, you can contain it with the help of a fire extinguisher. Grab your fire extinguisher and remember the PASS strategy. Pull the pin at the top of the canister, Aim the hose at the base of the flames, Squeeze the handle or lever, and Sweep from side to side until the fire is extinguished.
Ensure the fire is entirely out and not still smoldering. It’s also worth noting that fire extinguishers run out after 10 to 15 seconds, so be first and precise; otherwise, you might be unable to contain the fire.
- Protect Yourself from Smoke Inhalation
Fire produces smoke and toxic gases that can lead to lightheadedness or loss of consciousness if inhaled in large amounts. To escape a fire and its fumes, get low to the floor and crawl on your hands and knees.
While you might be tempted to run, encourage your household members to crouch or crawl, too. You do this because smoke and combustion gases are lighter than air, so they will rise to the ceiling during a fire outbreak.
If you must walk or run through a smoke-filled room, cover your nose and mouth. You may also place a wet rag over your nose and mouth, but only if you have enough time. Doing this only buys you a minute or so, though it does help to filter those combustion elements which cause smoke inhalation.
Note: If the fire is snowballing, leave the house immediately. Don’t start gathering your belongings, as your primary focus should be getting yourself and other household members to safety.
- Stop, Drop, and Roll If Your Clothes Are on Fire.
If your clothes catch fire, stop what you’re doing, get low to the ground, and roll around until you extinguish the fire. Moving back and forth will smother the fire quickly.
Use your hands to cover your face while rolling. Once the flames are out, soak the burned skin in water for nearly five minutes, then call for medical attention.
- Ward Off the Smoke If You Are Trapped Inside
If you can’t get out of your house and are waiting for the fire brigade to arrive, don’t panic, as you can take measures to prevent the smoke and stay safe.
To do this, lock your door and cover all vents and cracks around it using cloth or tape to keep the smoke from entering your room. Open the window and wave a colored cloth or flashlight to signal for assistance.
- Feel Doors Before Opening
Gently touch a door with the tip of your finger before opening. If it’s hot, there might be fire on the other side. In this case, you should find an alternative escape route to avoid entering a dangerous situation. It would also help to stick to planned exit routes. If your primary route is obstructed, use your second way out.
- Call Emergency Services
If you manage to leave the house, contact emergency services for assistance. You can contact the fire brigade from a mobile phone, your neighbor’s house or a phone box and share the address of the house on fire, including the town. Make sure you share as much information as possible, like how serious the blaze is and if anyone is trapped in the house.
What Are the Common Sources of House Fire?
We all lead busy lives, which makes it easy to be careless, and fire starters, like candles, heating equipment, and light bulbs, hide in plain sight throughout our homes.
Fortunately, you can take measures to prevent house fires, but before we touch on that, let’s unfold the common sources of house fires.
- Electric Blankets
A warm electric blanket is a comfort in winter, but it presents a potential fire hazard if misused. It is recommended not to let pets snuggle up on top or pile additional blankets over your electric blanket, as excessive heat accumulation can result in a fire.
Other precautions include keeping your electric blanket on its lowest setting, not twisting its coils, and remembering to switch it off in the morning.
- Dryer Lint Build Up
Most homeowners know that cleaning a dryer’s lint screen maximizes efficiency, but did you know that leaving it dirty is a significant fire hazard? Lint is combustible, and exposing ample amounts of it to excessive heat is a disaster recipe.
As such, it pays to clean the dryer vent, exhaust duct, and interior of the dryer frame occasionally to remove lint and clogs and minimize the risk of fire. Better yet, hire certified experts to clean the dryer vents every few years.
- Overheating Laptop
If you own a laptop, you know how warm it gets. Leaving it on a soft surface like a bed or couch can limit airflow via the cooling vents, causing it to overheat and catch fire. To avoid this, keep your laptop and other battery-powered electronic devices on a table while charging.
- Choosing the Wrong Wattage
Have you ever thought of using a 60-watt bulb in a 40-watt socket? You’re not alone. However, this assumption can endanger your home. Installing a light bulb with a higher wattage than the fixture can withstand can result in electrical fires.
Always check the light fixture’s maximum wattage before swapping in a new bulb. Also, avoid installing a bulb with a higher-than-recommended wattage.
- Using Too Many Extension Cords
Extension cords are intended to be a short-term rather than a long-term solution to a lack of nearby electrical outlets. Plugging appliances into a cord that devours more watts than the cord can withstand may trigger an extension cord to short circuit and start a fire. If you lack convenient electrical outlets, hire a certified electrician to install them.
Most kitchens have potential fire hazards, like appliances with frayed wiring, unattended pots, and so on. Therefore, it’s a good idea to pay attention to this high-risk space. Always stay around the kitchen when cooking and wear close-fitting or short sleeves to prevent your clothes from catching fire.
- Performing DIYs, You’re Unfamiliar With
Although it’s a good idea to improve and maintain your home, there are limits to what raw recruit DIYers should do. Most repair tasks involving electrical wiring and HVAC systems should be left to an experienced electrician to give it a professional touch.
That’s because incorrect installation and repairs can result in gas leaks and electrical sparks, which are a leading cause of house fires. Never endanger your home and family by engaging in dangerous maintenance tasks.
- Dust Accumulation
Dust buildup is a potential fire hazard if it accumulates in and around electronics, floor heaters, or electrical sockets. Vacuuming periodically, especially behind electronic equipment, can minimize the possibility of dust catching fire because of long-term exposure to heat.
Rodents such as rats like to gnaw on electrical wires to keep the length of their teeth in check. Over time, this gnawing can peel off the sheathing, leaving the wires naked.
The electric current that passes through the wire produces heat, and without sheathing, this heat can trigger sparks caused by short circuits, igniting the surrounding surfaces.
- Dirty Chimney
Cracked mortar, dead birds, and built-up creosote can all lead to chimney fires. It would help to schedule a professional chimney sweep annually to clear creosote accumulation and ensure the safe operation of the chimney. When building a fire in your fireplace, always use a customary fire starter instead of kerosene.
- Dirty Range Hood
Although ovens and cooktops are the leading cause of kitchen fires, range hoods are also a common source of fires. Over time, the accumulated grease on the vent hood filter can drip onto the cooktop, igniting a fire. From there, the fire could easily spread to your cabinets, and before you notice, your entire kitchen could be engulfed in flames.
- Heat Sources
Placing furniture next to heating sources, such as a wood stove, can trigger a house fire. Pyrolysis (a chemical decomposition of a flammable item) happens when an object (say, a couch) is consistently exposed to a heat source and eventually dries out.
This leading yet rarely considered source of structural fires doesn’t need a direct flame; all it takes is heat and time for ignition to commence.
- Unattended Candles
While candles add ambiance to your home’s interior, their soft glow can develop into a blaze if left unattended. All it takes is seconds for a pet or kid to knock a votive over or a draft to fan a flame and ignite the surrounding fabrics. Be sure to extinguish candles when not in use using a snuffer.
- Smoking Indoors
Smoking indoors is a leading cause of house fires. The embers of an inappropriately extinguished cigarette can contact nearby combustible items and ignite a fire. Careless smoking in bed can ignite the bedsheets and blankets.
- Space Heaters
Space heaters, which keep you warm when the duvet alone isn’t enough, join wood stoves as the leading cause of house fires. When positioned too close to flammable items, space heaters can become too hot to handle: in fact, so hot that they can start a fire.
It would be better only to use space heaters that turn off automatically when knocked over. Position them at least 3 feet from combustible materials.
Curious kids can easily ignite a home using lighters and matches. Lock away matches and lighters to prevent kids from causing disaster in your home.
How Do You Prevent House Fire?
Preventing a house fire is crucial for your safety and your loved ones. The following measures can help keep house fires at bay:
- Create an Escape Plan
House fires spread rapidly, so having an escape plan is crucial. Ensure all household members know where the safety meeting spot is outdoors and that each one knows the exit routes. What’s more? Practice your escape plan regularly to get well-prepared in case of a house fire.
- Check Smoke Alarms
Install smoke detectors in every home room and key areas like hallways. Consider interconnected smoke alarms because if one triggers, the rest follow suit. For fire safety, test all units monthly.
- Know How to Use Fire Extinguishers
Fire extinguishers are the first line of defense against fires. With them, you can prevent a small fire in its early stages from escalating into a disaster.
To use a fire extinguisher, pull the pin at the top of the canister, aim the hose at the base of the fire, gently squeeze the lever, and sweep the hose from side to side. Install at least one extinguisher in vulnerable areas of your home.
- Extinguish a Grease Fire Appropriately
Cooking equipment is a common source of home fires. If a grease fire ignites in your kitchen, don’t smother it with water or any ordinary liquid, as this will form steam explosions, which could worsen the fire.
Throw baking soda on the fire if it is contained in a pan, or cover it using a baking sheet. If neither works, evacuate the house and contact emergency services for help.
- Use Caution with Candles
Do not leave lit candles unsupervised. Extinguish all candles when you leave a room and keep lit candles at least 11 inches from combustible items, like curtains. Additionally, use sturdy candle holders and never leave kids in a room with lit candles.
- Practice Electrical Safety
Inspect your home for faulty wiring or overloaded circuits. Always have electrical work done by a professional electrician. Major appliances should be plugged directly into a wall outlet, not an extension cord. Lastly, never use electrical cords under carpets because, during an electrical fire, carpets tend to burst into flames quickly.
- Use Space Heaters Appropriately
Before using a space heater, examine the cord for cracks and ensure the heater is far from flammable items, like bedding. Plug your space heater directly into the outlet and turn off the heater when not in use to avoid accidental house fires.
- Keep Combustible Liquids Away from Ignition Sources
Keep highly combustible liquids like paint thinners and gasoline in UL-approved containers outdoors or in a different building away from your house.
How Do You Fight House Fire?
When a fire ignites, the way to extinguish it depends on the fuel sustaining it and the location of the fire. There are numerous proven techniques for fighting a house fire, some of which I have discussed below:
- Use a Fire Extinguisher
Determine whether it’s suitable to use a fire extinguisher. Some classes of fires are unsuitable for fire extinguishers. If the fire is uncontrollable, seek help from emergency services because your safety is the top priority.
To use a fire extinguisher, pull the pin atop the extinguisher, aim the extinguisher’s nozzle at the base of the fire, squeeze the lever to release the extinguishing agent, and sweep the hose from side to side to put out the fire. Fire extinguishers only run briefly, so be fast and accurate.
- Use a Fire Blanket
Unpack your fire blanket from its pouch and put it on the fire. It may take a few minutes for the fire to be extinguished completely. Let the fire suffocate, and don’t remove the blanket until it is cool to the touch. Once the fire is out, discard the fire blanket and replace it with a new one.
- Cut Off the Oxygen of Oven or Microwave Fires
If flames flare up in the oven or microwave, stay calm. Turn the device off, lock the door, and monitor it closely. Removing the heat source will extinguish the fire quickly. However, if the fire doesn’t die, use a fire extinguisher to put out the fire.
- Put a Lid on a Pan
If a fire starts in a cooking pan, cover it with a lid to smother it. Consider taking the pan outside in case it is creating plenty of smelly smoke. Ensure you use a heating pad before trying to hold the handle.
- Call Emergency Services
Contact your local emergency services as soon as the fire starts. Having professional help is crucial for preventing your home from being engulfed in flames.
Prevention is the first line of defense against fires. If you want to protect your loved ones and invaluable possessions from a house fire, you need a bit of know-how. This takes us back to our subject of discussion…
What to Do If There Is House Fire Outbreak?
There are many measures you can take in the unfortunate event of a house fire. This includes using a fire extinguisher to put out the fire if it’s still in its early stages, using a fire blanket to suffocate the fire, calling the fire brigade if the fire is uncontrollable, and evacuating the house to a safer place outdoors. And there’s more!
It must be noted that personal safety is non-negotiable. If at any point you feel overwhelmed by the fire, don’t hesitate to run to safety through the predetermined escape route.