How do prepping and fire safety go together? Good question! People always ask me what I’m prepping for, like they’re expecting me to say something big on a global level. Such as an economic collapse or an EMP that will wipe out half the planet. No, it is really simple things that are close to home and will affect me and my family. What are simple things that can affect my family on a catastrophic level? The first thing that comes to mind is a house fire. That is a really big deal, right? From a prepping perspective, I’d like to discuss that.
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Fires are something that can start anywhere, at any time, and cause massive damage. It can displace you from your home, and it can even kill you. Fire spreads quickly and can easily get out of control. There are many reasons fires start, but there are a ton of things we can do to prevent them, as well as be ready if they do happen. Don’t fear!
How do fires typically start?
Smoking in the house, and/or falling asleep while doing so. This would also include throwing hot ashes into a trash can and the can being too close to the house. Or throwing them away inside the house when they are still hot.
Leaving appliances running when no one is home
Grease fires in the kitchen, leaving flammable things near the stove
Overloading electrical outlets
Faulty smoke detectors
Heat vents being blocked
How do you combat these things?
First, I do not recommend smoking in the house. Wait a minimum of 2-3 hours after using the ashtray to dump it out. Dump it in an outside can that is far away from my house. Never do this when the trash can is in direct sunlight. Wait for evening when it is cooler outside.
I never leave any appliance running when I’m gone, including the air conditioner and the dryer. Some people do and they think I’m crazy for refusing to do so. Dryer fires are extremely common, and lint is flammable.
Many preppers or campers collect it to start a fire in the woods. If you’ve ever seen the articles where people put lint in egg cartons and pour some wax over the lint and then cut the egg cartons apart for individual fire starters. Yeah, they’re darn good for that, and there’s a reason.
Keep that stuff out of the house and out of the dryer. If my dryer is overloaded with lint, I’ll clean the lint trap. Then vacuum inside as well, and clean as much of the duct as I can to keep it from collecting just below the surface. I clean the lint trap after every use. With towels it requires more with the vacuuming.
I also check the outside vent consistently. Twice a year my husband goes under the house to check the duct and make sure everything is connected. It’s a great thing. We check these things every January and July, just like we do the smoke detectors. A consistent system is important!
Keep the kitchen and the stove clean. Don’t leave anything near it that can fall into the heat or start melting onto the stove. Clean up any grease that has spilled immediately. Check under the burner elements. There is a little lever that lets you pull part of the stove up to clean underneath. This should happen a minimum of once a month, sooner if something is spilled and drips.
Whenever I use the self-clean function on my stove, I move anything and everything away from the stove, and even the sink. Making me absolutely certain there will not be any issues. Always check burners and the oven when finished using them to make sure they were not left on.
Dirty chimneys are a big issue if you’ve got a fireplace. A fireplace is amazing but it requires maintenance and safety. A chimney needs to be cleaned by a professional a minimum of every two years. How often it is used and the type of wood used may mean you’ll want to do it more often. But at the very least have it cleaned once every two years.
Never overload an electrical outlet with more than it can handle. Also watch for loose outlet boxes and/or broken plugs. These can cause issues as well. Have them inspected by a certified electrician.
Faulty smoke detectors are the worst. Because you don’t realize there is a problem until it is literally too late. This can be the difference between life and death. Check them monthly to make sure they are working. Change batteries every 6 months. I change mine in January and July, no matter what.
My husband thinks I’m crazy because I’m fanatical about it, but that’s perfectly ok with me. It’s also important to have a carbon monoxide detector. C02 is colorless and odorless. Our bodies interpret it as oxygen. There is absolutely no way to see a signal without a detector in the house. I also replace my entire smoke detector every ten years. This is something great to do in January. Easy to remember that way.
Whenever fall comes around and it is time to turn the heat on, I go through the entire house and check my vents. Making sure they are completely clear and safe. This isn’t typically an issue. But some of the vents are under nightstands in the bedrooms. It is easy to miss a sock or shirt being kicked under there and suddenly the house is on fire.
I’d prefer not to burn my house down by my own stupidity, so I double check everything. Always keep vents clear. I go through the house daily in the fall and winter and just look around to make sure something wasn’t moved into a bad place. My cat likes to kick his toys all over and I’ve found them just hanging out on top of vents before. Just being aware of things like that is a big step in staying safe.
When a fire happens, there is no time to gather essential things. If a wallet is left in the house, whatever cash was in it is now gone. Same goes for bank cards, driver’s license, and more. Try finding a hotel room without any of these things when you can’t go back to your home. Or replacing those items when you can’t prove who you are. This would be where a fireproof safe comes in very handy.
I keep several in my home. I keep a large one for all paperwork. This includes bank statements, tax documents, birth certificates, social security cards. Anything paperwork related that I don’t want to be lost in a fire. Everything is in brown envelopes labeled in the safe. I’m a stickler for organization and quite possibly a bit OCD. But I keep nothing but paperwork in the larger safe. Everything is in envelopes and labeled. This makes it easy to find.
I keep small things in the other safe, such as jewelry. My husband and I don’t wear our wedding rings because they need to be resized. Losing them would be devastating. We keep a small amount of cash in there, and some other important items. These would include a flash drive, spare car keys, things like that. Little things in the little safe, basically.
Fire extinguishers. I keep one of these in a central closet in my house, as well as the farthest room from the main living areas. Fire extinguishers can be purchased at any home improvement or hardware store, and are essential. Keep them in areas where a fire is the most likely.
In my case, it would be the kitchen because that’s where the stove and my washer and dryer are. So having one in a central closet is very handy because it is only a few feet from where the fire would start. Storing it in the hall closet keeps me out of the fire zone, but keeps the extinguisher easily accessible.
To use a fire extinguisher, remember the PASS method.
Pull the pin
Aim at the base of the fire
Squeeze the trigger
Sweep from side to side
For a grease fire while cooking, cover the flame with a lid or throw a handful of flour on it. Do not use water on a grease fire.
If you have a two story house, you’ll want a ladder that can reach the top floor. Nobody wants to be stuck up there waiting for the fire department and being hurt. Inhaling the smoke can kill them long before the fire ever reaches them. Time is never our friend in this kind of emergency. It’s our absolute worst enemy.
Next, I would recommend a bug out bag. These are the kind of emergencies that any prepper has a bug out bag for. If you are forced out the door with absolutely no time to gather anything, at least you have the basics. I will be discussing the contents of a bug out bag in another post, but they are amazing in this kind of situation, and exactly why preppers keep them.
An exit plan for leaving the house is also essential. Everybody runs out of the house, who knows which direction they go, and you can’t find them. Not being able to account for everyone puts many people in danger. If you have kids and you don’t know where they are, they can be kidnapped by a stranger.
A random child who is scared walking around is an excellent crime of opportunity, unfortunately. If you can’t account for everyone and don’t know they are out of the house yet, firefighters will go in and try to find them. That puts them in danger as well. They are literally walking through a fire trying to find someone.
How do you develop a have a plan? A meeting place is essential. Think about a stop sign down the street. Or a large tree in the front yard. Maybe a neighboring house.
Once you have a bug out bag and a meeting place, you’ll need to practice. Some people think this is crazy and it’ll scare children or traumatize them. I disagree. Kids do fire drills in school. Earthquake drills. Active shooter drills. Why? Practice makes perfect. Seriously. If you train your mind to be ready for something, your response in an emergency drastically improves.
Police officers practice for someone shooting at them, or physically attacking them. People take self defense courses. All of it is practice for being prepared. When something happens, the mind goes straight into that mode to respond in a productive way. There is nothing wrong with this, and it is a safety measure. Better safe than sorry, right?
Think about escape routes from the home. If the front door is blocked by a fire, where do you go? Keep going down the line. Back door, garage, and so on. Once you’ve escaped from an exit, where do you go? How do you get to the meeting place? This would be where practice is essential.
If you are sleeping and a fire alarm goes off, what do you do? You will want to test the doorknob to see if it is hot before you open it. Stay low to the ground. Smoke rises, so staying low to the floor keeps you out of some of the smoke and may give you enough time to get out.
You’ll also want to think about pets, if you have any. Do you have a plan for them? Dogs can go out on leashes with you, but you’ll want some sort of bug out bag addition for them. If your wallet is stuck in the house during a fire and you didn’t pack food for your pet(s), you can’t exactly explain to Fido or Whiskers why they aren’t being fed. I prefer not making an already stressful situation worse by my failure to plan and prepare.
This adds to the overall agitation of everyone, animals included. If you have cats, do you have carriers for them? Know their hiding places. If cats go outside, you’ll want to pay attention to when they’re in or out, because firefighters need to know that kind of information, just like where every person is and if they are accounted for.
This is a lot of information to take in and keep in mind in terms of fire safety. But, it really is better to be safe than sorry. I will do anything to protect my family, and staying safe is a big part of that. Can I prevent or stop every fire or completely obliterate the possibility of a fire? Absolutely not.
However, I can decrease the chances of one happening. How? By being ready and prepared. I hope this article has given you some good tools to be prepared for one of the most devastating things that can happen to your household. Hopefully it helps keep you and your family a bit safer.
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