You’ve finally finished up laundry, did the dishes, made lunch for tomorrow and have just lain down to bed. In about 4.51 seconds you’ll be blissfully asleep.
All of a sudden you find yourself in a heated debate with your own thoughts. It usually goes something like this:
“Did I turn off the oven?”
“Pretty sure I did”
“It could start a fire you know”
“Whatever…i’m tired, I’ve got smoke detectors”
“When was the last time you checked them?”
Then of course, anxiety wins out, and you angrily get up out of your warm cocoon of blankets. You check the oven (of course it’s off) and finally head back to bed.
You’re almost asleep….
“Did you remember to check the burners?”
People in the disaster preparedness community talk a lot about what I call the “Hollywood” disasters. Global pandemics, invading armies, nuclear war, EMPs… Apparently the end of the world as we know it is a pretty popular topic of conversation.
Yet for every 10 Hollywood disaster-type articles or discussions I see out there, there may be only 1 or 2 about the more “minor” yet serious disaster threats. It’s not even fair to call these scenarios “minor” disasters considering most of them can be extremely dangerous; and unlike most of the Hollywood disasters, these disasters are actually likely to happen.
Residential fires are one of the most common and deadly disaster scenarios you’ll ever come across. Last year alone there were over 350,000 reported residential house fires in the US; killing nearly 2,500 people and causing over 6.6 BILLION dollars in damages.
The threat of fire is very real and shouldn’t be taken lightly. I know fire prevention and safety aren’t nearly as fun as taking the AR out to the range or spending the day in a tree stand in hopes of filling the freezer with meat, but the fact remains that if you’re a prepper, house fires should be one of the most important disaster scenarios you’re preparing for; and if you haven’t taken the steps to make your home as “fireproof” as possible, you’ve got a massive hole in your preps. It might be time to forget about EMPs, the Super-flu and the hordes of post-apocalyptic marauders for a few days and start thinking about what you can do to mitigate the realistic risk of fire in your home today.
In today’s post we’re going to go over the top 20 ways to help prepare for a house fire.
- Smoke Detectors – Install 2 smoke detectors for every floor of your home. Don’t buy the cheapest smoke detector you can find (quality matters), check and test the detectors regularly and replace the batteries often. This is your first line of defense in a fire and could be the difference between life and death for your family.
- Carbon Monoxide Detectors – Install 2 carbon monoxide detectors for every floor of your home. If you have alternative heating sources like a propane heater, fireplace or other open flame heating source, this is an absolute necessity.
- Establish an escape route – A fire evacuation or escape route is just as important (more in my opinion) as your SHTF bugout plan. A fire can happen without warning and you may only have a few minutes to get out. Practice your escape plan often. Time how long it takes to get to your rendezvous point outside. In a high-stress, disaster scenario you always revert back to your lowest level of training. Practice your evacuation plan to the point where everyone in the family can do it in their sleep. This will ensure they will be ready to react efficiently if and when the time comes.
- The bugout bag – If you’ve been around Ready4itall for a while you know my stance on bugout bags and what should and (realistically) shouldn’t be in them. To each their own. However you decide to pack your bugout bag, be sure that it is always ready to go at a moment’s notice. Make sure you’ve got extra clothes, a flash drive with all your photos and important documents and contacts saved in it. It’s probably also a good idea to get a prepaidcell phone for your bugout bag just in case you’re unable to retrieve your phone during the fire.
- Make sure all your windows are in good condition – Even if your evacuation plans don’t include using a window as an emergency escape route, you could find yourself in a position during a fire where going out the window is the safest option. Make sure your windows don’t stick and the locks can open easily.
- Consider an escape ladder for upstairs rooms – Again, even if you’re not planning on using a window for your fire escape route, plans can change in an instant during a fire. Having an emergency ladder that’s stored upstairs will allow you to escape a 2nd floor window safely if you need to.
- Don’t keep gas and propane inside your living area – To a most “normal” people this tip might not make a lot of sense. I mean who keeps a bunch of extra fuel tanks lying around the house? LOL preppers do of course! Be sure to keep ANY fuel, be it extra propane tanks, gasoline, diesel etc. out of your actual home. During a fire these fuels could make an already bad situation deadly in the blink of an eye. The best place for them is a detached garage or shed, outside of that, keep them in your garage even if its attached. Essentially you just don’t want them anywhere near large appliances or heating sources.
- Don’t smoke indoors – As a former smoker myself I understand the attraction of smoking inside, especially since right now the temperature in my area is about 5 degrees below zero. Aside from the dangers of second-hand smoke and how utterly terrible they make your home smell, over 35% of the fatalities caused by house fires in the US last year were caused by fires that were started by smoking indoors. In fact, smoking indoors is the #1 leading cause of residential fires in the U.S.
No matter how careful you are, accidents can and will happen. The convenience of smoking indoors is not worth the risk to your home or the lives of your family. Get in the habit of smoking outside. Even better; quit smoking cigarettes. I switched to an electronic cigarette over a year ago (after about 20 failed quitting attempts) and I don’t miss smoking analog cigarettes at all. Now I can “vape” to my heart’s content on my couch without worrying about lighters and ashtrays…oh yeah, and I’m not going to die from lung cancer either.
If you’d like more information on electronic cigarettes, use the contact form and get a hold of me. These things saved my life and if you’re interested in quitting smoking for good I’ll help you get started.
- Alternative heating sources – If you use an alternative heating source with an open flame, invest in a good quality fire extinguisher. Also, never run an alternative heating source with closed windows. Deadly carbon monoxide can build up quickly from these heaters. Crack a window or two before using them.
- Always keep alternative heating methods at least 3-4 feet away from anything that can catch on fire – ‘nuff said.
- Never leave an alternative heating method unattended – Although most modern alternative heaters come equipped with safety shutoffs, it’s never a good idea to trust a machine to keep you safe. Machines can fail; never leave a heater unattended, especially if you have children in the home.
- Have your electrical system checked regularly – There’s a reason why your electrical system must be inspected before you can sell your home. Electrical problems are one of the top 3 leading causes of residential fires in the U.S. Although it might seem like an unneeded expense, hiring a qualified electrician every couple of years to give your electrical system a once over is a very good idea and could potentially alert you to electrical problems that could cause a fire.
- Do a yearly inspection on your heating, cooling and hot water systems – If you’re a homeowner this should be something you’re doing already to ensure that these systems stay properly maintained. However, this is especially important in fire prevention. Out of all the appliances in your home, your A/C, water heater and furnace have the greatest chance of malfunctioning and starting a fire.
- Always plug empty outlets with a cover – Even though it would be pretty hard for an uncovered outlet to start a fire, the possibility is definitely there and that exact same thing has caused many a fires. Considering the danger of open outlets around children and the ridiculously low cost of the plastic inserts for empty sockets, there’s really no reason not to have them covered at all times.
- Do not overload extension cords or power strips – Extension cords come in different thicknesses for a reason. The thicker your cable the more electricity it can handle. If you use a cheap, thin extension cord on an appliance that uses a lot of power, it could very easily start a fire.
DO NOT OVERLOAD POWER STRIPS! Just like extension cords, power strips are only rated to handle a certain amount of electricity. Make sure you’re not using too many appliances or devices at the same time if they’re on the same power strip. Additionally, make the investment and buy heavy duty power strips with one or more fuses.
- Fire extinguisher – Every home should have a fire extinguisher. A tiny fire can become a large inferno in a matter of minutes in the right conditions. A fire extinguisher can prevent small fires from becoming big ones. A better idea is to buy 2 fire extinguishers and actually test one of them outside so you know how to use it effectively before you need it.
- In the case of a fire, get low to avoid the smoke – Most house fire fatalities are caused by smoke inhalation, not the actual fire. Smoke (like heat) rises, so if you’re in a burning building, go prone; there will be significantly less smoke 1-2 feet from the ground than there would be if you were standing up.
- Close doors in a fire – When escaping a house fire, close doors behind you if possible. This will do a few things; not only will it help contain a fire if its isolated to a single room and buy the responders more time, but if you have to communicate with the fire dept. during the fire you can tell them that all the rooms with closed doors have been cleared of people. Just be careful, the door handles may be very hot.
- Stay close to your home after a fire – Even though a house fire can turn your whole world upside down, you still have to be vigilant and not forget about opsec. There have been numerous reports of thieves ransacking burnt houses looking for anything salvageable to steal. This is especially important if the damage was minor but you are still unable to inhabit the home.
- Documentation flash drive – This was mentioned before in the bugout bag tip but it’s worth repeating because it’s probably the most valuable tip on this list. Scan and back up all your important documents to a USB flash drive. Financial information, insurance information, passwords contacts, photos, any type of important document or media that can be scanned and backed up should be. If you’re worried about security there are several free programs out there that will encrypt a flash drive. My personal favorite is TrueCrypt.
Even though fire safety and prevention might not be the most exciting area of prepping, fires should probably be one of the most important disaster scenarios that you’re preparing for. It is by far one of the most common threats to all of us and the damage it can do to your home and your family is immeasurable. Once you’ve cleared up the holes in your fire prevention preps I promise you….you’ll sleep a lot easier.
Stay safe everyone,