Everyone Gets Out Alive: Fire Safety 101

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woman installing smoke detector home safety

In the last 40 years, the number of fires and people dying in them have fallen by half. That’s great! But not good enough. Here’s how to save your family.


Do you have a fire escape route planned for your home? Have you considered plan “B” options if main exit routes are affected? Do you know what to grab? Do you have a fireproof safe?

These are all questions you should be able to answer “yes” to if you’re a homeowner. When you’re able to say “yes” to these, you’ll be saving lives. In 2013, 370,000 fires claimed over 2,700 lives. The good news is, in the last 40 years, despite a surging population, the amount of annual deaths and fires has plummeted by half.

So let’s hear it for fire safety! And let’s get you started on a good plan.

Planning a route

To get everyone out alive, you’ll need a plan. What if the stairs are engulfed in flames? Where will you go, and how will you get there? What windows can you climb out of? Is everyone prepared, if that needs to happen?

To plan well, you’ll need a blueprint or layout drawing of your home. Each person will need a main-exit strategy — which is basically running out of the house ASAP — but they’ll also need two more plans.

First, where will they go if the stairs or main hall is engulfed? And second, if they can’t get out of their bedroom door, is there another way out? If getting out the window will be a challenge, consider installing a rope ladder or rope that can be quickly secured for a getaway.

Practice makes perfect

We do fire drills at work, but it’s seldom something we do at home. If you’re ever unlucky enough to have a fire, there’ll be enough commotion and panic without planning poorly. If you’ve all practiced fire drills a couple times a year, everyone will at least be able to draw on that practice so they have a cooler head.

And that cooler head may make the difference in getting out safely.

Practice each of the backup scenarios so there’s no doubting that it works in a real event if there are any surprises.

boy in firemans hat

Know fire safety

You know the obvious hazards, right? Don’t leave candles unattended. Double-check the gas stove when you’re done. Change smoke detector batteries. Sure, everyone knows these things, but it’s important that kids have it drilled into them.

But you know what? There are more dangers. I had a college professor who got a call at work once because her house had nearly burned down. The cause? The cat knocked the hairdryer off the bathroom counter and it inadvertently turned itself on. Blowing hot air long enough, things heated up, and poof, insurance was dealing with installing a new bathroom and bedroom, plus a whole lot of water damage elsewhere.

Another surprise is that discarding batteries unsafely can be very dangerous, and homes have burnt down because of 9-volt batteries striking another battery’s posts or metal, and igniting.

Simply put? Be careful with all electronics, all plug outlets, all electrical loads, and all batteries. Those sparks make things go up in smoke.

Know what to grab

Getting out of the house alive needs to be your priority. Panicking about grabbing documents or anything else you consider critical, well, that could just get you or someone else killed. Just get out.

Instead of panicking, plan ahead and invest in a fireproof, waterproof safe. There, you’ll want to keep critical documents like passports, birth certificates, home insurance, credit card information, backup hard drives, and anything else you’ll deem as being important for getting on with your life. If you splurge even more, you can ensure you get a safe rated to stay at temperatures assured to keep any digital media, flash memory, and such from nuking in the heat.

Good news is, you don’t need to worry about the safe in an event. It’s designed to survive. It might suck to sift through wreckage to find it, but you’ll find it.

Be vigilant

With use of smart power bars that have surge protection, safe appliance use, and regular battery replacement in smoke alarms, you’re off to a good start. By planning and practicing, you’re doing even better.

Two final steps include making sure you’re covered with good home insurance, and finally, don’t just own a fire extinguisher — make sure it works and is still rated safe for use.

With all these plans in place, the odds of you and your family getting out okay will increase dramatically, ensuring the only things that go up in smoke are covered by home insurance.


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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.