How to Prepare for a Home Fire

How to Prepare for a Home Fire GIF
I don’t think fire preparedness is one of Brule’s Rules.

The most important rule of fire safety is – when your home is on fire, sprint out, and don’t look back. 

Know one thing: You won’t get an opportunity to flit in and out of your burning house to evacuate your kids, grab your passport, and dig around for your hidden gold stash.

Don’t bank on being lucky. Instead, protect your stuff and prepare so you can get out fast.

Gold stash, How to Prepare for a Home Fire guide
You should probably keep your gold stash at the bank, anyway. Or at least bury it in the yard.

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1. Install smoke and fire detectors

Here’s something you know:
Smoke and fire detectors are small devices that can alert you about fires before they spread. 

Here’s something you don’t: 
A smoke detector needs help. Your help. 

Here’s how you do it.

  • Install the alarms at locations where a fire is most likely to start (kitchen, bathroom, utility room), as well as in all bedrooms. The hallways outside of bedrooms should also have smoke alarms.
  • Once installed, test the alarms every month.
  • Make sure the alarms are audible in every part of your home.
  • Ensure all residents know the fire alarm’s sound and can respond to it.
  • If you hear sounds that aren’t the alarm–like a chirp every few minutes–it’s probably the low battery indicator. Change the batteries in any chirpy smoke alarms.
  • Replace fire alarms every 10 years.

You should also get a carbon monoxide detector. Improper use of the stove or furnace releases CO–a colorless and odorless gas–which can cause poisoning and lead to fires.

2. Check the cords/cables to your electronic devices

  • Invest in fire retardant cables and extension cords, which will help limit the spread of an electric fire and could save your electronics.
  • Regularly check your devices for overheating issues. Overheating is the main reason electronics catch fire. Most modern appliances shut off automatically when they overheat, but if yours ever feel hot, turn them off, make sure they have enough ventilation, and keep them away from flammable items.

3. Prepare a fire-safety drill, and practice it

To prepare for a fire drill:

  • Make a map of your home showing the various rooms with their entrances and exits.
  • Draw the escape routes on the map and discuss with your household how to safely exit during a fire: stay low, cover your nose and mouth, and feel doors before opening (hot doors have fire behind them).
  • Agree on a safe outdoor meeting place where you will reunite after you escape.
Two women reviewing a escape routes for a house fire-safety drill
  • If you have any locks on your doors or windows, make sure everyone knows how to open them. Window screens are also tricky unless you have practiced removing them.
  • If your house has more than one story, get fire ladders to make window escapes easier. Practice using the ladder during your drills.
  • Practice the drill at least twice every year with your entire family/residents of the house.

4. Keep essentials safe

5.  Purchase the right (kind and quantity of) fire extinguishers

  • Keep at least one fire extinguisher on every floor of your house, including the basement and attic. 
  • If you’re going to ignore that tip, make sure you have one in the kitchen, at the very least. Fire blankets are awesome to keep in the kitchen, as well!
  • If you have a wood stove, oil furnace, or other non-electric heating source at home, keeping a fire extinguisher nearby is also a great idea.
  • Small fire extinguishers work well for extra protection in bedrooms and bathrooms. 
  • Keep a fire extinguisher in your garage or on the porch so you can quickly respond to outdoor fires.

We have all the information you need to find the right fire extinguishers for your home and offices.

Rule of Thumb

Make your entire family practice with whatever fire extinguishers you purchase.

Remember to P.A.S.S.

PULL… Pull the pin. AIM… Aim low, at the base of the fire. SQUEEZE… Squeeze the handle. SWEEP… Sweep the spray from side to side.

6. Hope for the best, but keep a plan ready for the worst

  • Make sure everyone knows which relative to contact in case they forget the meeting place or can’t get there safely. Having a single emergency contact will help everyone reunite sooner. 
  • Show everyone in your household how to safely shut down gas and power supplies.
  • Teach your kids (and adults, if they don’t already know) to STOP, DROP, and ROLL in case their clothes catch fire.
  • Ensure that the kids know how to reach you: they should be able to give your name (it’s not “mom” or “dad’) and should know your phone number.
  • Teach your kids how to dial 911, ask for help, and give their home address. Make it fun!

So, what do you do next if the worst happens?

Playing with fire - How to Prepare for a Home Fire
Tell your budding pyromaniacs that playing with fire is fun until it very much isn’t.

About the Authors

It takes a village! We are researching, writing and fact checking as a family. Collaboration is the name of the game, whether we’re running from a zombie horde or finding the best way to turn a complex concept into a deliciously digestible set of bullet points.

Professional worrier. Mom, entrepreneur. Lifetime student of brain science. Passionate about surviving what's coming (climate change, wtf) and staying as sane as possible. Determined to make the best of the end of the world.