Stop, Drop and Plan: Thinking Ahead for Family Fire Safety

You know what you’re supposed to do if there’s a fire — at least, you think you do. Stop, drop and roll, right? Well, that might be best if the fire’s already on your body. But what about the crucial moments before it gets that far? How can you protect both yourself and your family from a fire within your home?

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, 1,353,500 fires killed 3,000 people and resulted in a loss of $16 billion in 2021 alone. Though everyone has the potential to be harmed in a fire, the Red Cross states that adults older than 65 and children younger than five are most at risk — in fact, children younger than five succumb to house fires at double the rate that others do.

Read below for some tips on creating and testing your own family fire safety plan to keep your loved ones safe from harm.

Before the Plan: Establish the Basics

Prior to drafting a full-out escape plan, establish and normalize a set of best practices in order to ensure an environment of keen fire safety within your home.

  • Make sure smoke alarms are installed on at least each level of your home and both outside and inside rooms where people sleep. Test them every month.
  • Check that all smoke alarms are connected to each other— when one goes off, so will all the others.
  • Introduce children to the sound of the fire alarm and what it means.
  • Do not allow children to play with lighters or matches. Store these in a safe place out of their reach.
  • Keep flammable objects away from heat sources like stovetops and heaters.
  • Work with your pets so that they come when called.
  • Learn proper fire extinguisher safetyby training with your local fire department.
  • Place escape laddersnear upper-floor windows.
  • Make sure everyone knows the local fire department’s phone number.
  • If any doors or windows are equipped with security bars, be sure they can be disarmed with an emergency release device.
  • Make sure your house number can be spotted from the road so fire personnel can identify which home is yours.

Drafting the Plan: A Family Affair

When creating your fire escape plan, incorporate all of your family members into the process — including your pets. Start by drawing a map of your home on a grid. Next, plan your escape routine.

  • Search for at least two routesout of every room in your home.
  • Clear doors and windows of any obstacles.
  • Select a meeting place outside where the family will gather.
  • If anyone might need assistance getting out of the home, make sure someone else is assigned to help them. Have a backup in case the first person is unable to assist.
  • Different building types require different exit procedures, though the basics remain the same. You can find the Red Cross’s tips for high-rise apartment complexes here, multi-family dwellings here and single-family homes

Most organizations recommend that you and your family practice this plan at least twice a year. The goal is to get your escape time down to two minutes.

A note about oxygen therapy

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) states that over 1.5 million Americans use supplemental oxygen. It is important to take precautions to minimize fire risks and tripping hazards as part of your fire escape plan.

Per the NCOA, “Sometimes called home oxygen therapy, home oxygen concentrators provide supplemental oxygen for people with breathing difficulties, lung infections, lung diseases, and other respiratory conditions.” You may need home oxygen therapy for conditions like COPD, sleep apnea, severe asthma, heart failure, and other medical issues.

Supplemental oxygen itself is not flammable, but it can make flammable materials ignite and burn more quickly. While using oxygen, stay at least five feet away from an open flame or heat source. The NCOA also advises avoiding gas stoves, electrical appliances, and flammable materials like plywood, fiberbaord, wood, and foil.

Even more importantly, you should never smoke anything (including cigarettes and vape pens) while using oxygen, and should prohibit anyone smoking near you. The NCOA recommends displaying “No Smoking” and “Oxygen is Use” signs in and outside of your home to minimize the risk of fires.

The organization recommends keeping your oxygen away from the following:

  • “Smoking
  • Oil/grease
  • Gas stoves
  • Aerosol sprays such as hairspray, cooking sprays
  • Birthday cake candles and other open flames such as candles, lighters, and fireplaces
  • Oil-based lotions, vapor rubs, and petroleum jelly (use water-based products instead)
  • Electrical appliances such as hair styling tools, electric razors, heating pads, and microwaves
  • Alcohol such as liquor and alcohol-based sanitizers”

They also point out that “Improperly stored oxygen can damage your device and lead to oxygen concentration, where the gas accumulates and increases the risk of fire.” Ensure you store your oxygen according to instructions, including organizing the tubing to decrease tripping hazards.

If a fire does occur in your home, follow the plan. If you can, get out as soon as a smoke alarm sounds. Close doors behind you as you leave. Check all doors for heat before opening them — if a door is hot to the touch, keep it closed, stay in the room, stuff a towel under the door and signal for help via a phone or an open window. If you absolutely need to crawl out through smoke, get low to the ground to avoid breathing in fumes.

Though you can’t always predict when a fire will occur, you can always be prepared for one. Stop, drop and plan your family fire safety system as soon as possible.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a fire through no fault of your own, a personal injury attorney from KBG Injury Law may be able to help. Call our offices or contact us for a free consultation today. We maintain offices in York, Lancaster, Harrisburg, Gettysburg, and Hanover for your convenience.