Home Fire Safety: Preventing and Surviving a House Fire

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Home fires usually start without any warning, and it can engulf everything, spreading within the span of a few minutes. The first tell tale sign is smoke and even a small fire can cost large amounts of damage.

Let’s look into ways to prevent a house fire and some safety precautions that can be taken to keep you and your loved ones safe.

Preventing and Surviving a House Fire

What is basic home fire safety?

Fire safety is a topic many take lightly, though we may be aware of the dangers a fire can cause. Not everyone knows of the necessary safety measures that should be taken before, during and after a fire. 

A guide to follow, is to implement the three P’s which are prevent, practice and protect yourself. No one wishes for it to happen, that’s why it is important to be prepared.

Before a fire 

Preventive measures are key to keeping your home and family safe. Children need to be educated for them to be prepared for the worse case scenario. 

Fire produces intense levels of heat, smoke and poisonous gases. When a person inhales too much smoke, it causes damage to a person’s lungs which will cause confusion, panic and disorientation.

Asphyxiation is the leading cause of death associated with fires. It is a state when a person lacks oxygen, due to high inhalation of smoke. This causes suffocation, unconsciousness and may lead to death.

Let us learn the basic ways on how to avoid this from happening : 

Create a home fire safety plan

During a home fire, just a few extra seconds can mean the difference between life and death. Having a well planned fire escape plan is of utmost importance to save time.

  • Create a floor plan of your home with all exit points. (doors, windows, grills). Here is a guide on how to create a floor plan.
  • Plan the easiest and fastest route out, followed by alternative routes through all exit points. 
  • Calculate the distance and time needed to escape each route.
  • Sit and share the plans with all of your loved ones including your children.
  • Educate your children to never hide inside the closet or under the bed. Teach them how to cover their mouth and nose with a damp towel, to reduce the inhalation of smoke.
  • Then decide on a landmark or meeting point to gather. Make sure that it is easily accessible and is within a safe distance from your home.

Practise the escape plan

House Fire escape plan

To ensure that your family is prepared in the event of a fire at home, make sure to rehearse different scenarios and practice various escape routes.

  • Always have 2 exit plans of escape from each room just in case you are unable to come out of the primary exit route.
  • All exit points must be clear and clutter free as it will save time when needed to evacuate.
  • Never ever use a lift as the fire may cause a short circuit which will leave you trapped inside.
  • If you have stairs at home, make sure it is always clear and free from any obstruction.
  • Check your windows regularly ensuring they open easily and are not stuck. If you have grills installed on your windows, find a way in which you can remove the bolts easily in case of a fire emergency. 
  • Ensure locked doors are easy to open from the inside. Keep all keys within reach and close to your doors.
  • Make sure to teach your children how to identify a fireman, for them to learn how to recognise one.
  • Make it a habit to practice a home fire drill every 6 months and learn how to quickly move towards each exit point efficiently.
  • Learn how to crawl, remain low and stay close to the ground during evacuation to avoid inhaling excess smoke.

Smoke alarms

Smoke alarms save lives. They play a vital role as it alerts and gives us time to evacuate. These few extra minutes are crucial.

In fact, the chances of surviving increases by 50% for those that have a working smoke alarm installed. Make sure to regularly check them to ensure that they are functioning efficiently. 

During a fire

The most important thing to remember is to remain calm and not panic. Here’s what we should do:

  • Never open a door if the doorknob / door is hot, search for an alternative route out.
  • To escape a fire, open doors slowly and if there is smoke building or blocking your path, start crawling and make your way out. This is because poisonous gas and smoke starts gathering at the ceiling first.
  • Do not rush to gather personal belongings and valuable items when evacuating, this will slow you down. Get out with only the clothes on your back to speed up the process and save your life.
  • Make it your main focus to find a safe way out following the fire drill and laid out plans you practiced.
  • Once you’re safe outside, never, ever run back inside no matter what the circumstances may be.
  • Call 911, or your local emergency number once you are safe.

Stop, drop, roll

Do not run if your clothes catch fire, running only makes the fire spread faster. You can extinguish the fire effectively when you stop, drop and roll. 

These are the steps to follow :

  1. Stop, stay still and calm down, if your clothes catches fire.
  2. Drop to the floor and lie flat on your back in a sleeping position.
  3. Protect your face from flames with your hands.
  4. Roll repeatedly till the fire is extinguished.

After a fire

When a disaster like a home fire strikes, there will be uncountable things running through your mind with overwhelming emotions often clouding judgements.

Here are some things you can do to help you move forward from the tragedy:

  • Check on those involved in the accident
    Attend to any cuts or bruises and immediately contact emergency health providers if medical attention is required. If your vehicle is damaged do not try to turn it on as it can cause an explosion.
  • Contact loved ones and friends.
    This experience will be very traumatic and you will need all the love and support you can get. Reach out for help and let them know what happened. This will help you have some support as you begin the restoration process.
  • Do not attempt to enter your home
    Check with the fire department team, and only enter your home when given the green light as it can be very dangerous. When inside do not attempt to turn on the electricity or gas as it can explode, causing further damage.
  • Valuable items
    Once it is safe to re-enter your property, retrieve anything valuable, including important documents, like passports, birth certificates, anything that is salvageable.
  • Call the necessary people to begin the claiming process
    Contact your insurance agent, banks and if you are renting, the landlord to report the incident. Get an official report from the fire department to assist with the claiming process. Make photocopies of the report and pass them to all necessary personnel including the police.
  • Photos and evidence
    When you inspect your home make sure to take photographs as supporting proof of damage to aid in the claiming process.
Common causes of home fires

Common causes of home fires

It’s also important to take note of the common causes of home fires so that you will be able to take precautions before the unwanted happens. 

  • Highly Flammable Liquids
    Make sure to keep these under lock and key and be very careful when using them. Avoid any spills which can instantly cause a fire even when ignited by a small fire source.
  • Children
    Children are very inquisitive and their innocent curiosity might lead to an unintentional fire. Make sure to keep all flammable items, lighters, matches out of reach or in a locked drawer.
  • Wiring
    Always hire a certified electrician to do the wiring in your home. Have them inspect the distribution board for any loose screws and to make sure it is not overloaded.
    This can cause sparks which can cause a fire.
  • Electrical Appliances
    Check to make sure the power socket and chords are not frayed or broken. Never overload any extension & power cords with too many appliances plugged in.
    This is because a fire can break out when there is an overload.

Home fire safety tips

Tips to avoid and prevent a fire from breaking out in your home:

Don’t smoke in bed

Do not smoke in bed or leave an ashtray in your room, even a tiny spark from the cigarette butt can cause a fire. Oftentimes, cigarettes are not put out properly. Always sprinkle some water to ensure the cigarette is completely killed.

Never leave candles unattended

Always remember to blow a candle out, never leave a candle near curtains or any flammable items which can cause a fire to break out. Also keep it out of children’s reach. 

Keep an eye on your cooking

Regardless whether cooking on a fire or an electrical stove, never leave food on the stove unattended, if it overheats it only takes a few seconds for it to burst into flames.

Install smoke alarms

Have a smoke alarm installed in every room and level of your home to be on alert when a fire breaks out.

Unplug appliances

Make it a habit to always unplug all appliances that are not in use. When overloaded, it can cause a short circuit and cause a fire when sparks ignite. 

How should we use a fire extinguisher

Home fire safety checklist 

Here’s a home fire safety checklist to help you prepare:

  1. Working smoke detectors / fire alarms. 
  2. Floor plans of your home and an escape route. 
  3. Regularly check all power sockets and electrical appliances. 
  4. A working fire extinguisher. 
  5. A fire blanket to help extinguish small accidental fires, such as those caused by a home BBQ.

How should we use a fire extinguisher?

Remember the acronym P.A.S.S., which means Pull, Aim, Squeeze, and Sweep. 

  1. Pull out the pin, remember to release the lock and point the nozzle away from you.
  2. Aim and point the nozzle of the extinguisher to the base of the fire.
  3. Squeeze slowly and release gradually. 
  4. Sweep from side to side to extinguish the fire. 

Check from time to time with the help from a professional to ensure your fire extinguisher is in working condition.

This detailed guide on how to properly use a fire extinguisher provides further information.


A tiny spark can ignite your biggest nightmare. Always protect yourself and your loved ones by making sure your home insurance includes fire coverage too.

The sum insured will help with the cost of damage to rebuild your home. Proper planning saves lives, as when you are prepared, you are less likely to panic. This will help with a smooth evacuation process and get your family to safety efficiently.