When it comes to fire, no house is completely safe. Electrical objects sometimes malfunction, and all of us are prone to human error. However, there are steps we can take—before, during and after a fire—to minimize our vulnerability and keep our property, loved ones and ourselves safe and secure. Here are 28, devised by the experts at FEMA.
Before a Fire
• Find two ways to get out of each room.
• If the primary way is blocked by fire or smoke, you will need a second way out. A secondary route might be a window onto a neighboring roof or a collapsible ladder for escape from upper story windows.
• Only purchase collapsible ladders evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL).
• Make sure that windows are not stuck, screens can be taken out quickly, and that security bars can be properly opened.
• Practice feeling your way out of the house in the dark or with your eyes closed.
• Windows and doors with security bars must have quick release devices to allow them to be opened immediately in an emergency. Make sure everyone in the family understands and practices how to properly operate and open locked or barred doors and windows.
• Teach children not to hide from firefighters.
• Crawl low under any smoke to your exit – heavy smoke and poisonous gases collect first along the ceiling.
• When the smoke alarm sounds, get out fast. You may have only seconds to escape safely.
• If there is smoke blocking your door or first way out, use your second way out.
• Smoke is toxic. If you must escape through smoke, get low and go under the smoke to your way out.
• Before opening a door, feel the doorknob and door. If either is hot, leave the door closed and use your second way out.
• If there is smoke coming around the door, leave the door closed and use your second way out.
• If you open a door, open it slowly. Be ready to shut it quickly if heavy smoke or fire is present.
• If you can’t get to someone needing assistance, leave the home and call 9-1-1 or the fire department. Tell the emergency operator where the person is located.
• If pets are trapped inside your home, tell firefighters right away.
• If you can’t get out, close the door and cover vents and cracks around doors with cloth or tape to keep smoke out. Call 9-1-1 or your fire department. Say where you are and signal for help at the window with a light-colored cloth or a flashlight.
• If your clothes catch fire, stop, drop, and roll – stop immediately, drop to the ground, and cover your face with your hands. Roll over and over or back and forth until the fire is out. If you or someone else cannot stop, drop, and roll, smother the flames with a blanket or towel. Use cool water to treat the burn immediately for 3 to 5 minutes. Cover with a clean, dry cloth. Get medical help right away by calling 9-1-1 or the fire department.
• Contact your local disaster relief service, such as The Red Cross, if you need temporary housing, food and medicines.
• If you are insured, contact your insurance company for detailed instructions on protecting the property, conducting inventory and contacting fire damage restoration companies. If you are not insured, try contacting private organizations for aid and assistance.
• Check with the fire department to make sure your residence is safe to enter. Be watchful of any structural damage caused by the fire.
• The fire department should see that utilities are either safe to use or are disconnected before they leave the site. DO NOT attempt to reconnect utilities yourself.
• Conduct an inventory of damaged property and items. Do not throw away any damaged goods until after an inventory is made.
• Try to locate valuable documents and records. Refer to information on contacts and the replacement process inside this brochure.
• If you leave your home, contact the local police department to let them know the site will be unoccupied.
• Begin saving receipts for any money you spend related to fire loss. The receipts may be needed later by the insurance company and for verifying losses claimed on income tax.
• Notify your mortgage company of the fire.
• Check with an accountant or the Internal Revenue Service about special benefits for people recovering from fire loss.
For more information, visit http://www.ready.gov/home-fires.
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