Home Fire Safety

Roughly 70% of home fire deaths result from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. Homes with smoke alarms (whether or not they are operational) typically have a death rate that is 40 to 50% less than the rate for homes without alarms. A 2008 survey found that 96% of the households surveyed had at least one smoke alarm.

In one-quarter of the reported fires in homes equipped with smoke alarms, the devices did not work. Households with non-working smoke alarms now outnumber those with no smoke alarms. When smoke alarms fail, it is most often because of missing, disconnected or dead batteries.

Example Family Escape PlanHaving a Family Escape Plan Is Essential

A recent survey showed that 30% of American household estimated that they would have at least 6 minutes before a fire in their home would become life-threatening. In actuality, the time available for safe escape is often much less. It’s critical for household to establish and regularly practice a fire escape plan so that everyone remembers what to do in case of an emergency.

Steps to Safety

Make a Plan

  • Draw a floor plan for each floor of your home, including windows and doors. For each room, find two ways out, and label them on your plan. Get started by downloading the worksheet (PDF).
  • Designate one adult to help get babies, young children, or family members who need extra help out safely. Have a back-up plan in case the primary person is overcome by smoke, or is not home.
  • Decide on a safe meeting place for your family. Make sure it is a safe distance away from the home.

Talk to Your Kids

  • Make sure everyone knows what to do and where to go in case of a fire.
  • Test your smoke alarms once a month, and make sure your child can recognize the sound.
  • Teach your child to get low and crawl on the ground, where the air is less smoky.
  • Show your child how to use the back of his hand to check doors for heat before opening. Teach them to use a different way out if the door is hot to the touch.
  • If your child needs to use an escape ladder, show him where you keep it, and how to use it.
  • Children can become scared and confused during emergencies, so teach them to never hide from firefighters.
  • Teach children to never go back inside a burning building. Once they are out, stay out!

Do a Home Fire Drill

  • Practice your fire escape plan four times a year. Fires can start anywhere in the home and at any time, so run through the plan at different times of the day or night, and practice different ways out.
  • Use a stopwatch to time how fast everyone can get out and to the specified meeting place. The goal should be under 2 minutes.
  • Practice feeling the door and doorknob with the back of your hand for heat.
  • Explain that if they do catch fire, they need to stop, drop and roll.