Tips How To Stay Safe During A House Fire

Plan For, And Escape Smoke & Fire In Your Home

Tips How To Stay Safe During A House Fire
image: public domain

Even a small fire can spread rapidly. An entire house can be engulfed in 3 minutes. You need to have a plan and be ready to act fast.

Here are some important tips to stay safe during a house fire…



Smoke detectors have a shelf life. They should be changed every 8-10 years according to the U.S. Fire Administration.


Smoke alarms should be on every level of the home. Make sure your smoke detectors work. Press the ‘test’ button. Change batteries annually, even if they are powered by your house AC wiring (most have backup batteries). Use a major holiday as a reminder – New Years for example, or when changing the clocks (daylight savings time, etc..).


The safest way to put out a grease fire burning in a pan is to remove the oxygen.
Here’s how…


Keep several fire extinguishers in the home. At least one in or near the kitchen and one in your bedroom.


At home, imagine yourself in each and every room, and understand how you would protect yourself or get out if a fire was near or blocking a doorway. Plan secondary escape routes in advance.


Keep a quick-escape ladder in every 2nd-story bedroom. Most are designed to quickly attach to a window ledge while the rungs hang down outside. These can be stored under a bed and ready to use if you are trapped and have no other safe alternative. Practice deploying the ladder.
Window Escape Ladder


If a smoke alarm goes off while you’re in a closed room, first feel the doorknob, hinges, or the door itself for heat before opening. Use the back of your hand because it’s easier to accurately determine the temperature this way. If the door is warm, use your secondary exit. Know that doors can get hot enough to actually burn you without appearing to be very hot at all.


If traveling and staying at a hotel (or wherever), take a few seconds and think about how you would escape a fire. Know where the nearest exits are. This is important (most people don’t give it a thought). Always bring a flashlight with you and keep it next to your bed.


When a smoke alarm sounds unexpectedly, your primary objective is to get out of the building safely. Do not give a thought to collecting any of your things. Seconds count – so get out.


If the door is cool, open it slowly and take a look at the conditions on the other side. If there is a lot of smoke and it’s banked up towards the ceiling, stay low to the ground and crawl to get yourself out. Hot smoke is toxic, scorching, and rises towards the ceiling so keeping close to the floor can help you avoid inhaling or being burnt.


If necessary, cover your nose and mouth with a wet t-shirt, rag, etc.. to help to filter the products of combustion which lead to smoke inhalation. Smoke inhalation causes people to become disoriented and can even render a person unconscious.


If you are trapped in an upper floor room, do whatever you can do to get to an area where people will be able to hear you or see you. You can take a sheet or something else – and hang it out the window to signal that you need help when the first responders get there. Be sure to close the window because leaving it open draws fire towards the fresh oxygen. Use a towel or anything else at the bottom of the door to prevent the smoke from coming underneath.


If you are on fire, stop, drop, and roll and cover your face.


  1. One of the big causes of house fires are glade plug in’s and candles. Don’t use those. Use candle wax warmers if possible and still keep watch over those. Another danger is, people are putting their gas water heaters in the garage now. Keep you gas cans and flammable items safely far away.

    1. Texasgirl…

      I don’t use either, but I had no idea that glade plug ins could cause a fire? have heard many folks mention that they use them.

      have heard of many a house fire started with candles, either fell over, or left house and forgot them.

    2. If you have an ignition source in your garage DO NOT park your vehicle in it if the gas tank has been recently filled as the warmth of the garage will cause the gas to expand and will exit the tank or worse cause a leak in a seam and cause a fire.

    3. yes, bad idea in garage, gas water heaters or a gas heater heating the garage. I myself know of somehow who had a big fire, due to gas heater in garage.

      folks were lucky, they were all o.k..

  2. Yep, I am in the industry and Glade plug ins are bad. I will never own them. It takes literally minutes for a fire to engulf a room.

    Also do not store batteries where the ends can touch, they can spark, thus start a fire. Mainly 9 volt batteries. Energizer even puts a warning on their package.

  3. I too was taught that doors can burn skin even when they do not appear to be that hot. A good reason to use the back of the hand to determine temperature is to be practical. A burn on the fingertips or palm of the hand is likely to be larger and more painful than one on the back of the hand. Since most of us will automatically reach forward with our dominant hand a burn to the palm of that hand will increase our difficulty and time required to escape.

  4. In my country 80% of house fires are caused by electrical mishaps.
    A good proportion of those electrical problems are people going out and leaving the clothes washer on. Many of the front loaders are el-cheapo models made in China from inferior materials.
    Reject any made in China electrical products are unless you have them under direct supervision.
    Charging circuits using el cheapo Chinese transformers/ DC converters whould be switched off before you leave home. These are the units powering handheld vacuum cleaners, cheap cell phones, etc etc etc.
    Never buy a el cheapo Chinese refrigerator or aircon.
    Bedside clock radios should be checked out. Never buy a cheapie.

  5. Aww, as careful as I think I am, I didn’t think about leaving phone chargers plugged in when not in use or supervised.

  6. Fire is scary now…just imagine if fire trucks weren’t rollin because of an E.M.P. All fires would quickley get out of hand. Houses would just burn to the ground. Yet another good reason to not store all of your preps and weps (weapons) in the same place.

  7. have heard many folks suggest that if one supply of water available, pool size. Good to put out a fire.

  8. kate, above, is close on the use of the back of the hand. If you burn your palm you won’t be able to open the next door or window you come to with that hand.

    Window escape – for those that are physically able a cheap alternative to a ladder is a length of heavy-duty rope. Tie knots every few feet, make it long enough to reach the ground, enter the window and cross the floor to your bed. Tie the rope to a sturdy cross-member underneath the bed. Coil the cord and throw it under the bed. If you need it just chuck it out of the window and ride it down as your bed is dragged across the floor, then let yourself down the rest of the way.

    Escape – when you get to a hotel or take your seat on a plane, count the number of doors/seats to the exit. If smoke has filled the cabin or hallway you’ll be able to get out even though it is completely dark at floor level.

  9. Had a fire a few years ago… Was heating up a chip pan left the room to answer the phone and all of a sudden all the fire alarms went off. Shouted to get everyone out and got my eldest to call 911. Whacked a fire blanket over the pan and just left myself. Firefighters arrived and the fire was out but there was lots of smoke for them to clear…

  10. Just wanted to share an experience that shows how careful one needs to be when cooking. My eldest daughter who is 15 stays home alone after school most days for about an hour. One day, a few months ago, I was going to be late so I asked her to put the oven on to heat up so that when I got in I could just whack the chicken straight into the oven. Unfortunately, she didn’t check if there was anything in the oven; there was; a tray full of grease from the night before. She went back to doing her homework in her room, listening to music, through headphones, at the highest possible volume ad teenagers do…

    It was only when she smelt smoke that she noticed a problem, even though the fire alarms had been going off for several minutes. Luckily we have discussed fire safety and escape plans and always had drills. She felt the door, opened it slowly and crawled low under the smoke, down the stairs and to the front door. Which was locked and the key was in the kitchen. She smashed a window to escape but caught her arm on a shard of glass, just adding to the disaster. The only godsend is that she had her phone on her and was able to call 999. I arrived home to see a smoke filled house and my daughter desperately bandaging her arm with a first aid kit she found in the shed.

    Since the fire we have installed alarms in every room and now also have a first aid/ emergency kit outside should we ever face such a situation again…this website gives some really good insight into actions to take and everyone should take his seriously.

    1. @ Theresa
      Thank you for sharing the story, again it shows how fragile everything can be. Good call on adding the Smoke Detectors and added supplies.

  11. I experienced a fire a few weeks ago while babysitting some children for my mums friend. The parents had told me the smoke alarms work etc before they left and showed my the fire extinguisher. The kids were playing in their rooms and I was cooking some food when I started to smell burning plastic. I turned the stove off and decided not to use it and instead make sandwiches just in case I was doing something wrong. I then opened the study door and was hit by a cloud of smoke. I shouted FIRE FIRE FIRE to get all the kids to evacuate and then went outside and called 911. I think this was the right thing to do even though there was quite alot of damage…

    1. Ellie

      ABSOLUTELY it was the right thing to do.

      First off, always get to safety (and the kids).

      So very glad all were ok.

      Very smart of you to automatically turn the stove off.

      I surely hope the owners were not trying to place blame on you?

      Please I hope not.???

  12. Just wanted to share an experience of a fire in my home. A few years back I was heating some oil on the stove and left it to answer the phone. Whilst talking, I was alerted to smoke by the fire alarms. I quickly went back to the kitchen where the pan was on fire. I turned off the heat, pulled the fire blanket out of the case and put it over the fire before shutting the kitchen door and evacuating to the front lawn to call 911. There was a little smoke damage but nothing too major.

  13. Had a fire recently in my home in the UK. The fire started in the oven after I put some tortillas in the warm up and didn’t realise I had also left a pan of fat in the oven too. I forgot about the tortillas and they set alight, which also set fire to the fat. I was alerted to the fire by the smoke alarms and managed to turn off the oven and spray a powder extinguisher in the oven before crawling to the front door, evacuating and going to the neighbours to call 999

  14. can you increase your chance of survival by going below ground ? If so do creating turns in the decent slow the smoke by any discernible factor or is a straight shot down the same in smoke avoidance

    1. Fire sucks up the oxygen…I am thinking like a forest fire.. Most people who die in forest fires die, because of no oxygen.

      .To go underground one would need a very good ventilation/filtering system and a way to seal it temporarily off, so oxygen would not be pulled out, while the firestorm is passing.
      ……OR an active cave with water/oxygen incoming from underground source?.

      Making catche’s could help significantly with remote recovery, by having an underground area, with some supplies…

  15. My lovely wife and I have been happily married for 42 wonderful years. For the first few years of our marriage, when the smoke alarm went off, it meant that supper was ready….

    CD in Oklahoma

    1. HEY! How did you know, I’m not from Oklahoma..My hubby is Not CD???(LOL)

Comments are closed.