Preparing For and Surviving a Fire in Your Home

Avatar Gaye Levy  |  Updated: December 16, 2020
Preparing For and Surviving a Fire in Your Home

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home fireThis is the time of year when families are putting up holiday trees and decorations as well as candles and other goodies that will provide their homes with a warm and inviting ambiance.  Something I have not seen mentioned in the prepping world is fire prevention – especially as it relates to prepping your home so it will not go up in smoke and flames.

Today I share with you some tips for preventing a fire in your home along with some tips for surviving a home fire.

Fires are a Problem

Fires are a problem, more so than commonly known  Almost 4,000 people die annually from fires in the United States and about a third of those deaths are from home fires.

Common causes of home fires are cooking, baseboard and space heating, careless smoking, electrical malfunctions and arson.  Even more surprising is that most fires are human-caused and are preventable, while only a small percentage of fires are actually due to natural acts such as lightening.

So how does a fire start?  Three elements in a just right combination are required:  heat, fuel and oxygen.  When these three elements are in place and combustion occurs, given a good source of fuel, a home can be destroyed in very short period of time.

christmas tree 2004Think of this scenario: a dry evergreen tree, a space heater nearby connected to a mis-wired or rounded electrical outlet and a bit of air from an open window.  It does not take long to imagine the disaster that is waiting to happen.

So what can you do now to prevent a fire from occurring in your home? Well, there are no guarantees and accidents do happen, but hopefully these suggestions will insure that you have a safe holiday season without fear that a fire will destroy your home and precious belongings.

Tips for Preventing a Fire in Your Home

Learn how to prevent fires in and around your home. Common fire causes include: cooking, smoking, heaters, candles, electrical, arson, and children playing with fire.

Install and maintain smoke detectors on every level of your home and inside and outside every bedroom. Most fatal fires happen at night while you’re sleeping and you will not smell the smoke.

Unplug unused heaters when you go to bed at night or leave your home for any period of time.

Have a fire extinguisher available and know when and how to use it. The minimum recommended size is 2A:10BC. fire extinguisher smoke alarm

Plan and physically practice a home escape plan as part of your family disaster plan. Plan two ways out of every room and practice how to safely exit each room in the event of a fire.

Do not block room exits with furniture or excess clutter

Provide escape ladders for stories above the first level and make sure you practice using them.

Designate one outside meeting place so everyone in your family knows where to meet once you are outside.  This place should be far enough away to keep you out of danger but close enough that firefighters can account for you.

If you live in an multiple-family residence or assisted living facility, learn what the emergency evacuation procedures are for your complex. Make sure you are familiar with the building’s fire protection systems, what they sound like, how they activate, and what to do if the alarm goes off.

Be sure to plan for family members with special needs who may require assistance.

And special for the holidays:

Keep your holiday tree well watered and located away from heaters, fireplaces and candles.  If you are using an artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.

Do not leave holiday lights on when you are away from home.

Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.

Consider battery-operated candles.  These days they are quite realistic and can be used year after year.

Do not locate your holiday tree or decorations in front of a room exit.

Nine things to do if there is a fire in your home

Although you may have done everything you can to mitigate the chance of a home fire, stuff happens.  Perhaps a houseguest misplaced a cigarette or perhaps a space heater tipped over unintentionally.  The important thing is to be ready.

Below is a plan of action that outlines nine things to do if a fire starts in your home.  These are things that you may already know but when a fire does happen, you may panic and forget.

1.  If a fire starts, alert others and get out of the building. This includes your pets.  A fire can easily travel through a house in less than five minutes.

2.  On your way out the door, grab your Bug-Out-Bag that is stocked with flashlights, emergency blankets, copies of your important documents on a flash drive and prescription meds.

3.  Only fight a fire if the fire is small, you know how to use a fire extinguisher, and your way out will not be blocked if the fire gets too big.

4.  If you’re primary escape route is filled with smoke, use your second way out. If you must escape through the smoke, stay low under the smoke and crawl quickly to safety, keeping your mouth and nose covered.

5.  Once outside the building, stay outside – do not go back into the building that is on fire, even if you think the fire is still small.

6.  Go to the designated outside meeting place where everyone can be accounted for.

7.  Call 9-1-1 to get help.

8.  If you cannot get out, stay in a room (as far away from the fire as possible) with the door closed and do your best to protect yourself in place. The more barriers and space you put between the fire and you, the greater your chance of survival. If you can, signal firefighters at a window for help.  If you have a phone in the room call 9-1-1 and report your location.

9.  If your clothes catch on fire – stop, drop and roll. Stop where you are, drop to the ground, and roll until the fire is out. Cool the burned skin with water, if available, and seek medical attention.

The Final Word

A home fire (whether house, condo or apartment) can be one of those horrific events that will leave you not only without shelter and belongings, but with an emotional void that comes when you realize that your must start over from scratch.  Hopefully you will have insurance, but even then, the process of rebuilding can be expensive and physically and mentally draining.

This holiday season, remember to take reasonable care when it comes to fire prevention and also to take steps to insure that if a fire occurs, you and your loved ones will survive.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!


Bargain Bin: With the holidays coming up, budgets are stressed to the limit. Something to consider as a sneaky prepper gift for the non-prepper in your life is the Backdoor Survival Portable Pocket Kit. Heck, for as little a $5, you can purchase a single item in the kit or for about $50, you can put the whole thing together yourself.  Something to think about, anyway.

Kershaw OSO Sweet Knife:  This “oh so sweet” knife is solidly built, stainless steel knife that comes razor sharp right out of the package. It will pretty much cut through anything the price is amazing.

Streamlight Nano Light Keychain LED Flashlight:  extremely small and light weight yet it will throw off a decent amount of super-bright light. At just .36 ounces and 1.47 inches long, the Streamlight Nano Light Keychain Flashlight will take up a minimum of space in your pocket or bag.

Paracord Survival Bracelet:  Why a Paracord Bracelet? So you always have some of this useful cord on your person.

Windstorm Safety Whistle:  This particular whistle can be heard a long distance away and above howling wind and other competing sounds.

Swedish Firesteel:  Using this basic pocket fire-starter, you can get a nice fire going under almost any conditions. This is a small, compact version.

Pepper Spray:  It is always good to have some form of defense that will temporarily halt a bad guy that is in your face.

Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets:  These come in compressed packets small enough to fit in a pocket or wallet.  You will be surprised at how warm these will keep you.

As a matter of fact, all of the packages you see available at are available at my party and and better prices too!


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9 Best Essential Oils for Your Survival Kit | Backdoor Survival

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5 Responses to “Preparing For and Surviving a Fire in Your Home”

  1. All the information given is good. I would like to add that visibility in a fire is very limited, to non existent. You really have no idea of how quickly smoke turns a room into a dark maze. As a former fireman I can attest to having been completely lost in a bedroom and getting stuck in a closet while searching for possible victims. Fortunately I had on a SCBA to provide air, and was able to figure out where I was. If you think you can rely on your vision, as in Hollywood and TV movies you will be in for a big surprise. Try crawling out of your bedroom in the dark, with your eyes closed and a pillowcase over your head to get the idea. I can’t emphasize the advice of not going back in enough.

  2. Our city apartment had a fire 5 years ago. I discovered:

    a) I had multiple fire extinguishers but they lasted just a few seconds and were virtually worthless so definitely get the largest one you can handle.

    b) If you can, CLOSE the door of the room where the fire is. The flash fire develops quickly and that is what spreads the fire throughout the house by fanning out across the ceiling in the ENTIRE house. Had I closed the bedroom door where the fire started chances are the fire would have been contained there. The flash fire is also the reason you want to get out of the house right away. The moment I saw the fire I sent my children outside.

    c) Forget the movies where people are running through fires. I tried putting the fire out with a blanket but I can tell you that just being NEAR the flames is going to get you 1st and 2nd degree burns.

    d) I called 911 right away. Even though they should have your address I gave the address and dropped the phone without hanging it up. The fire department came within about 5-6 minutes. BUT, this is important, they are not going to send any of their personnel IN right away if they know everyone inside is outside. They are going to assess things. During that time the flash fire exploded. Your personal property is less important than human safety. It’s sad but understandable when the fireman doesn’t run into your house right away before the fire grows. Also, they are more interested in preventing the spread of the fire to other buildings than whether they can save your space.

    e) Make sure you have insurance, of course. Do a home inventory now because you’ll discover everything is worth way more than you thought. Also, if you have uninsured losses the IRS only allows you to deduct the re-sell value (about 1/3)! It makes no sense at all but you won’t be able to deduct replacement cost.

    f) Nasty surprise for apartment dwellers: Even though the landlord should have property insurance for the building (since the cost is included in the rent) AND it is not possible for you to buy property insurance for someone else’s property (moral hazard), the landlord’s insurance company may very well come after you for recovery of their payout for repair/rebuilding costs. That was the case in our fire. AND they asked for the repair costs of the floors below us that were damaged by water used to put out the fire along with the replacement cost of the water-damaged property of the tenants on those floors. This was in California and all the insurance companies involved were household names. Don’t expect your insurance company to spend a dime defending you–regardless of policy wording–they will pay their liability limit and walk away.

    Now imagine the fire spreads to a neighboring apartment or building and you are looking at a financial Armageddon. You need to buy the largest LIABILITY limit you can afford along with an “umbrella” policy that extends those limits by several million. This is often difficult for apartment dwellers to obtain–but you must try. 401k’s should be safe from lawsuits but laws on IRAs vary from state to state so those may be vulnerable should your insurance limits be insufficient to handle the liability claims.

    g) After the fire, when your insurance company’s hired clean-up crew comes you must be there to save your stuff because anything smoke-damaged–which will be virtually everything–that survives will be considered a “total loss” and thrown away. For instance, a wood frame bed where you can wipe down the soot, CDs, photo boxes that survived, clothing, kitchen pots & dishes, it’s all going in the trash if you are not there to save it. Don’t let your tragedy be doubled by losing things that survived. Make sure your insurance company won’t restrict you from saving items that from their point-of-view are considered a “total loss”.

    h) Don’t forget to unplug the refrigerator when you are going away. No one wants to waste food or time things just right to have an empty refrigerator when you leave but I know people who lost their home while on vacation due to a refrigerator fire.

  3. All great advice. As a child, I heard constantly “don’t burn the house down!” Years later I learned this was due to my father’s family home burning down and his 3-year-old brother being killed in the fire when my dad was about 10 years old. As an adult I have this fear from it being drilled into my head as a kid and it’s always in the back of my mind how to prevent a fire from happening. I check the stove multiple times after dinner. When we leave town, I unplug everything except the DVR. When I used to work outside the home, I’d bring my blow dryer and curling iron with me in the car because that’s the last thing I did before leaving and was always afraid it would catch fire after I left. I have several fire safes; they don’t contain jewelry or cash but irreplaceable photos and documents. I also use an offsite automatic backup for the photos and documents on my computer. The only material things I’d be devastated about losing are photos and mementos so I take every precaution I can for those.

    • Debbie – This touched a chord within me. Momentos and memories are important to me too – more so than “stuff”. Also, I unplug my hair iron especially, when not at home. And I never leave the clothes dryer running while I am asleep or away from the house.

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