It's that unfortunate time of year that most of us need to remember to turn our clocks back one hour (and probably lose an hour of sleep because of it). The American Red Cross also suggests that this is a great opportunity to remember to also check your smoke alarms: TURN your clock back and TEST your fire alarms. Most smoke alarms can be tested by simply pushing a test button—definitely worth the time and effort when working fire alarms cut the risk of death in a house fire by half!
While you're at it, you can also prepare for home fires or emergencies in other ways as well, including planning your family escape plan and preparing an emergency/burn first aid kit.
Create and Practice a Fire Escape Plan
It might seem unnecessary, but there's not much time to think and act when in the midst of a house fire. It's vital that every member of the family knows multiple escape routes and how to get out of the house in under two minutes, from any room.
They should also know how to safety maneuver the house in case of a fire emergency.
- If there is someone with a disability that makes it difficult for them to move quickly, assign someone else in the family to help them escape in the event of an emergency.
- Check all windows in your house to make sure that they can open easily so that they can be used to escape if necessary. If there are safety locks, make sure each member of the house knows how to unlock the window.
- As you leave the house, try to close the doors behind you. This will help the fire and smoke spread less quickly, providing more time for you and your family members to escape.
- Check all closed doors with the back of your hand first to determine how hot it is on the other side. If you grab the handle first, you may burn your hand. If it seems very hot or you can see light from fire from the other side of the door, look for another exit in the room.
- In the worst case scenario, you may need to barricade yourself in a safe room. Close all doors and try to seal the gaps closed with material like towels or duct tape to help stop smoke from seeping in. Open any windows in the room, even if they are not large enough to escape from, and try to alert someone of your location immediately.
Prepare a Fire & Disaster Emergency Kit
You should keep a light, easy-to-carry emergency kit bag or case in your home. Something small enough for the youngest child in the home to handle is ideal, as you never know who or when an emergency will strike. Place your emergency kit near an exit of the house, or an external storage area, and be sure that each member of the home knows where the kit is located and what sort of items they can find inside.
You can buy affordable burn kits or all-purpose family emergency kits online. Pick a one depending on the size of your family and the age of each person. A larger number of pieces in the kit isn't always better—if your children are active in sports, you may want a kit with large bandages, not just band-aids.
You can also supplement or prepare your own first aid kit. For a family of 4, the Red Cross recommends the following first aid supplies for your emergency kit:
- First aid instruction booklet
- 2 absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)
- 25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
- 1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)
- 5 antibiotic ointment packets (approximately 1 gram)
- 5 antiseptic wipe packets
- 2 packets of aspirin (81 mg each)
- 1 blanket (space blanket)
- 1 breathing barrier (with one-way valve)
- 1 instant cold compress
- 2 pair of nonlatex gloves (size: large)
- 2 hydrocortisone ointment packets (approximately 1 gram each)
- 1 roller bandage (3 inches wide)
- 1 roller bandage (4 inches wide)
- 5 sterile gauze pads (3 x 3 inches)
- 5 sterile gauze pads (4 x 4 inches)
- 1 oral thermometer (non-mercury/nonglass)
- 2 triangular bandages
- 1 pair of tweezers
- 1 pair of scissors
You can also consider customizing your first aid kit. If you have young kids, you may want to include pain relief medication in syrup form. If you have a baby in the house, you may want to also include plastic syringes to help you administer accurate doses. If anyone in the house has known medical conditions, remember to also include extra first aid supplies to help them manage the condition in time of emergencies.
For more information on Fire Safety
For more about preventing home fires, preparing for emergencies, and fire safety tips, take the time to browse the National Fire Protection Association's website with your family.