Preppers often think about huge, world changing events, but forget the smaller but potentially more likely disaster scenarios. Each year in the UK, hundreds of people die, and thousands more are injured due to house fires. House fires are extremely dangerous, but there are many things you can do to reduce the risk of a house fire.
Prevention Is Best: Reduce The Risks Of A House Fire
Start preparing for a house fire by trying to prevent one happening at all. The graph below shows that by far the most common cause of house fires in the UK is cooking. A leading cause of cooking fires is deep fat frying in an open pan, such as a chip pan.
Study your home and consider the fire risks. Consider what you can do to reduce the risk of a house fire starting.
In the kitchen, for example, the list below includes some very simple steps you can take to reduce the risk of a house fire:
- Keep the cooker and oven clean. A build up of grease can catch fire very easily when cooking. Keeping the cooker clean removes this risk.
- Keep flammable items away from the cooker. For example, towels, paper towels, curtains should all be well away from the cooker.
- Don’t fill a pan more than one third full of oil, even when deep fat frying.
- Do not leave anything cooking unattended.
- Don’t try to cook when you’re tired or drunk.
Equipment To Prepare For A House Fire
Probably the most important equipment you can have to prepare for a house fire is smoke alarms. Smoke alarms will warn you of a house fire, and will wake you if you are asleep. Many people are killed by smoke inhalation when sleeping; smoke alarms can prevent this.
Fit at least one smoke alarm on each level of your home. Ideally though, for the best protection, you should fit a smoke alarm in every room except the bathroom.
Use a fire extinguisher for putting out small fires. A dry powder fire extinguisher is very versatile, able to stop several different types of fires. Care is needed in any enclosed space, however, as you should not inhale the powder.
Always follow the manufacturers instructions for fire extinguishers. This will ensure that you use the correct extinguisher for the fire type.
Use a fire blanket on an oil or grease fire. It will put out the fire by depriving it of oxygen, without the risk of spraying burning oil or fat.
You should never use water for an oil or fat fire, as it will make it much worse. A fire extinguisher may spray burning oil or grease, so a fire blanket is safer for these fires. Keep one in the kitchen, easily accessible in case of a cooking fire.
Fire Mask/Smoke Hood
A fire mask (also known as a smoke hood) is designed to allow you to breathe when escaping from a fire. It will protect you from smoke inhalation, including the lethal effects of carbon monoxide.
Smoke inhalation can incapacitate and kill very quickly. Keep a fire mask easily accessible in your bedroom so you can quickly put it on if a fire starts at night. A fire mask is even more important if your escape route is long, for example if you live in an apartment building.
Fire Escape Ladder
A fire escape ladder can be hung over the edge of a window frame to allow you to safely escape the house from upstairs. Keep a fire escape ladder near a window that you are most likely to use as your emergency escape route.
Preparing For A House Fire
The most important step in preparing for a house fire is regularly checking that your smoke alarms work. Smoke alarms will give you an early warning about a fire and will wake you if a fire starts in the night. You will have a much better chance of safely escaping the fire than without a smoke alarm.
Plan your escape routes from the house. You should plan multiple different escape routes because a fire may block some of them. Regularly practice your escape routes, using them as you would at various times of the day or night. Consider how easy it is to get the key for any locked doors. A key might be easy to find in normal circumstances, but what if it’s smoky and there is zero visibility?
Your bug out bag should include a first aid kit with equipment to deal with burns. This may be very important during a house fire, so make sure your bug out bag is easy to grab if you have to escape from the house very quickly during a house fire.
Staying Safe During A House Fire
Getting out quickly is the highest priority during a house fire. Only consider using fire extinguishers or fire blankets to fight the fire if it is very small and you think you can do it safely. Fires can develop very quickly; get out quickly if you can’t control the fire.
When you escape from the house during a house fire, follow your plan using the closest escape route. Take your bug out bag if possible but do not put yourself in more danger to access it.
Smoke rises, so while escaping stay as low as possible to avoid inhaling smoke. Wear your smoke hood if you have one.
Before you open a door, feel it with the back of your hand. If the door is hot, there is fire on the other side so do not open the door. If possible, close doors behind you on way out.
Once you are out, stay out and call the emergency services.