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Prepping 101: How to Survive a House Fire

Imagine this: you're sound asleep and snoring away. While you’re busy fighting zombies in your dreams, a fire breaks out. 

What do you do then?

If you have a fire escape plan, this will be the time you kick it into high gear.

Here’s everything you need to know about prepping for house fires and creating a fire escape plan:

How Threatening Is a House Fire?

Survivalism isn’t just about gearing up for EMP attacks, the zombie apocalypse, or nuclear fallout. It’s also about being ready for more common emergencies that have a bigger chance of killing you — like house fires. 

Over 350,000 residential fires happen each year, causing millions in damages and injuring and killing thousands.

What makes fires so dangerous is how fast they spread. They can go from a tiny flame to a raging blaze in seconds. If you don’t get burned by the inferno, then it’s the thick smoke or toxic gases that will do you in. 

Fire Safety Prepping Tips

The best way to survive a fire is by preventing one from happening in the first place. Check out these fire safety tips:

Install Smoke Alarms

Get enough smoke alarms and check them regularly. We suggest interconnected alarms because when one activates, the rest go off at the same time. Your family will be alerted right away, no matter where they are in the house.  

Here are other things to consider:

  • Put smoke alarms on every floor of your home and outside each bedroom.
  • Remove dust and cobwebs from the alarms every month.
  • Test out all your alarms monthly.
  • Replace batteries of battery-powered smoke alarms at least once a year.
  • Install new smoke alarms every 10 years, since they become less accurate as time passes.

Put Fire Extinguishers in Every Room

Everyone and their mom knows fire extinguishers are essential in fire safety, but how many should you have at home?

Generally, you need to have at least one and keep it in the kitchen. But if you wanna be really prepared, it won't hurt to place one in each room. 

All your family members should learn how to use a fire extinguisher. You can teach them the PASS (Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep) method. 

Keep these in mind, too:

  • Get ABC fire extinguishers. These can put out different types of fires.
  • Inspect all extinguishers regularly for damage.
  • Check whether the pin and tamper seals are still secure.
  • Have your extinguishers serviced every year.

Store Fuel Properly

If you’re not cautious, the gas you stockpiled for your bug out vehicle may ignite and set your entire house on fire. You need to store it the right way, meaning at room temperature and separate from your residence (e.g., a shed or garage).

Other fuels like propane and kerosene should be placed in proper containers and storage conditions, too. 

Inspect Your Doors and Windows

You should be able to open every door and window in your home without much trouble.

It's best to go for single-cylinder deadbolt locks over the double-cylinder kind for your doors. With a double lock, you can't flee to safety unless you have the right key. You shouldn’t bet your life on it. Several folks have died in fires because of double locks.

Also, if your windows have burglar bars for break-ins, make sure they have a quick-release feature so no one gets trapped. 

Oh, and don’t forget those thorny bushes you planted under your windows.

They might be great for home defense...but when it’s your turn to navigate through the pointy needles, it’s a different story. You can take care of this problem by throwing a thick blanket over the plants. 

Get Fire Escape Ladders

If your bedrooms are on a higher floor, then you need fire escape ladders. You don’t wanna risk jumping out your second-floor window and breaking all your bones. 

It’s easy to find fire escape ladders online. When going through each option, consider how many floors you have, where you’ll store the ladders, how they’ll secure to windows, and what their weight capacity is. 

This article should give you more insight into choosing the best ones. 

Be Careful with Candles

Is the power out? Before you grab your favorite fire starter to light candles, better think twice.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) states that 7,610 home fires from 2014-2018 were caused by candles. A hefty chunk of those fires began in bedrooms.

If you need to see in the dark, let your family use flashlights instead. We like this tactical flashlight by TAC9ER. It’s rechargeable, durable, and way brighter than ordinary flashlights.

Don't Ignore Your Fireplace

Enjoying using your fireplace a lot every winter? We don’t blame you; it’s cozy as hell.

But you gotta cover it with a heavy-duty screen. This keeps sparks from the fire from going inside the room. Don’t forget to dump ashes properly, too. They should cool for a few days first. Then, put them in a metal container and add that to your trash bin.

Take Care of Your Chimney

We can’t talk about fireplaces and leave out chimneys! 

Your chimney isn't there for decoration. It has an actual purpose, which is to transport flue gases out of your house. These gases come from your fireplace, furnace, or wood stove. 

If you don’t want to put your household at risk of chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning, then you need to take good care of your chimney. Get it checked and cleaned yearly. Also inspect your flue regularly for things like debris, animal nests, and other obstructions.

Besides these, remember to stash matches out of kids’ reach, never overload electrical sockets, keep flammable items away from any heat source, and not smoke in bed. Common sense, okay?

Planning a Fireproof Fire Escape

No SHTF plan is complete without plotting how you’ll bug out or escape. Your fire plan is no exception.  No matter how careful you think you are with fire safety, you can’t take any chances and NOT have an escape plan.

Here are the steps to create an effective one:

Map It Out

Draw a map to determine all the possible exits in your home. Ideally, each room should have at least 2 escape routes — doors leading to the outside and windows that everyone can escape through.

It's also smart to highlight the spots where you stored your fire extinguishers.

If you’re staying in an apartment, your building should have a map of all the fire exits and stairs on your floor. Count how many doors there are from your room to the nearest exit. Be familiar with it, because would you really be using an elevator during a fire? No siree, not on your life.

Include Older Folks, Kids, and Pets

Don’t forget about these members of your family. They’ll need extra help escaping, so decide who’ll be in charge of guiding them out. Assign a backup person if the one responsible for rescuing them won’t be home. 

Assign a Meeting Place

After everyone hightails it out of the house, they should know where to reassemble. Choose a meeting area that’s at a safe distance from your home. The driveway, a light post, or your buddy’s place two blocks down are good options.

Pack a Bug Out Bag

We've established how fast a tiny ember can transform into a sea of flames. You only have seconds to make a run for it, so stopping to grab a few things will be the stupidest thing you can do.

What we suggest is to pack a bug out bag filled with survival supplies. You can leave it somewhere along your escape routes or beside the exits. It has to be in a place that you can easily spot and reach, an area that won’t be engulfed by the furnace. 

PACK A B.O.B. LIKE A PRO

Not sure what to pack in your bug out bag?
Our FREE guide on How To Pack A 3-Day B.O.B comes with a list of all the things you need.

Disasters won't wait til you're ready. Download now!

Know What to Do During a Fire

Don’t panic during a fire. Be smart and remember these crucial pieces of information:

Feel Doors Before Opening

Use the back of your hand to touch the door, the doorknob, and the space between the door and the doorframe.

Is it warm? Go for a different escape route. Is it cool to the touch? Open the door, but slowly. Otherwise, the flames that subsided may flare up again due to the rush of air.

If You’re Trapped

  • Don't use the window to escape unless you're secretly Spiderman, staying on your house's first floor, or have an escape ladder. Wait for the firefighters to come for you.
  • If you can, leave the window open a bit at the top and bottom. This lets smoke leave and fresh air enter. Shut the window, though, if it draws in smoke.
  • Stop smoke from going inside the room by sealing spaces and cracks in the door with duct tape or towels, if you're in a pinch.
  • Have a phone? Then call the fire department and let ‘em know where you are. You can use a flashlight or a bright sheet to signal your exact location.

Get Low

The higher smoke is from the floor, the thicker and more deadly. If you're left with no choice but to navigate through a smoke-filled area, stay low and crawl your way out. 

Stop, Drop, and Roll

If your clothes catch on fire, act fast. Stop, drop to the ground, and roll back and forth to let the flames die out. That’ll help you avoid turning into a human barbecue.

Discuss the Plan with Your Household

It’s time to gather your family and review the map and plan. Everyone should be on the same page. Make sure they can identify the exits of every room, where to find the fire extinguishers, and what to do during a fire.

Practice, Practice, and Practice Some More

You can’t just create a plan and be done with it. Put it to the test.

Test each escape route. Start simple by walking toward the exit then make it more challenging by crawling. Since it may be hard to see during an actual fire, you might wanna try doing the drills blindfolded and using your other senses.

Let your family practice using the emergency ladders, too. 

Time each drill and learn what your overall escape time is. In a fire, you may only have less than 2 minutes to get to safety so aim to be as fast as you can.

Final Thoughts

House fires are one of the deadliest threats to your safety, but they're easily preventable.

And with an escape plan you test again and again, you should be able to get out with only a few arm hairs singed off. Just follow the tips and advice we shared with you in this guide.

Is there anything we left out? Let us know in the comments!


Posted in  Prepping, Survival   on  April 22, 2021 by  Mel C0

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About the author

Mel is a seasoned prepper with a passion for food, health, and bushcraft. When she's not busy enjoying the outdoors, she's prepping for the zombie takeover.

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