House Fire Preparedness

Are you prepared for a house fire?

I want you to picture this scenario. It’s 2:30 am and you wake up to the smell of smoke and your fire alarms blaring. What do you do? Do your kids know what to do? Do you have a baby or toddler who can’t get themselves out of the house? What about pets? How is everyone going to get out of the house safely?

When you go through this scenario, how are you feeling about your family preparedness when it comes to housefires?

When preparing for house fires the first thing you need to do is create a family plan. Make sure everyone of all ages knows what their job is if the house catches on fire.

Prepare your family.

Safety is always first. Nothing in this world is more important than the safety of your loved ones. So, the first thing you need to do is create a plan.

  • Make sure everyone knows an evacuation route out of every room in your house.
  • Have a meeting place outside. The last thing you want is having everyone scattered and have someone enter a burning building to find someone who is already safely outside.
  • Give everyone a job that they need to do if there’s a fire. For example: For older kids their job is to get out of the house and meet at a specific location. For your spouse their job might be to get the pets. Your job might be to get the toddler/baby, etc. 
  • Keep shoes, clothes, and jackets readily available near beds and main entry/exit points.
  • Teach family members that smoke rises, so if they need to evacuate a place that is very smokey then they should crawl to their exit.
  • Keep doors closed in your home and teach family members to check the door and knob for heat before opening a door.

Prepare your home.

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  • Have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in every room of the house.
  • Purchase fire extinguishers and keep some in every room or at least every level or your home.
  • It’s not enough to purchase a fire extinguisher you also need to know how to use them.
  • Gather and put all important documents in fire/water safe containers.
  • Have pictures and documents backed up digitally.
  • Take pictures of the inside of your home at least once a year for insurance purposes.

Understand the risks of house fires.

The U.S. Fire Administration reported that the 2021 national estimates for residential building fires and losses show that there were:

  • 353,500 fires.
  • 2,840 deaths.
  • 11,400 injuries.
  • $8,855,900,000 in dollar loss.
Residential Fire Estimate Summaries (fema.gov)

In 2021, there were over 353,000 house fires reported in the United States. It’s important to recognize that these house fires differ from widespread disasters such as hurricanes or tornadoes, as they are typically personal in nature. Unlike natural disasters, which affect entire communities, house fires are more individualized emergencies.

When entire communities are impacted by disasters, government agencies typically step in to provide assistance. However, it’s crucial to exercise caution when solely relying on government agencies for help, as their assistance may not align with your expectations or preferences. I’ve written a comprehensive blog post on this topic, which you can explore here.

In the case of personal disasters like house fires, your primary source of assistance is typically your homeowner’s insurance policy.

Ask questions about your homeowners/renters insurance.

Homeowner’s insurance can often be a source of confusion and frustration for many policyholders, as they come to understand that its coverage is not as straightforward as it may initially seem. While homeowners invest in insurance with the expectation of comprehensive protection, they soon realize the fine print, stipulations, and limitations that can leave them feeling far from fully shielded.

Policies often come with specific rules and exclusions that can catch homeowners off guard when they attempt to file a claim. It’s not as simple as having a policy for $300,000 and the insurance company cutting you a check for $300,000 to do what you want with.

It is crucial that you review your policy and fully understand what is and isn’t covered. (While you’re at it, check into flooding and natural disasters that you are prone to). Have an open and honest conversation with your insurance agent or broker, seeking additional coverage for specific risks, and maintaining detailed records of their property and possessions to streamline the claims process.

Homeowner’s insurance is an important financial safeguard, but you need to understand what protection you are actually paying for.

Lessons Learned:

I have a follower on Instagram who lost her home in a house fire, and she willingly shared her experience below so that others could learn from her situation.

“My name is Michelle and I am from Southwestern Pennsylvania. I am a wife to a wonderful husband, a blessed mom to two energetic boys, and dog mom to two dogs (plus one we are currently fostering).

January 5, 2022 was the night that turned our world upside down.  It was a totally normal, cold Pennsylvania evening and we had gotten everyone settled and ready for bed.  My husband and I had only been asleep for about an hour when we heard someone banging on the front door.  We both shot up out of bed and looked at each other totally confused.  Who is banging on our door at this hour?

We both jumped out of bed and I peeked out our bedroom window, which faced the road. I saw a cop car with its lights flashing parked on our road. Then, saw smoke wafting in front of our window. We both realized what was happening. We grabbed our boys and dogs and made our way down the stairs. By this time, a State Trooper had our door completely kicked in and was yelling that our house was on fire and for everyone to get out.

We all made it into the driveway and a neighbor helped me with the boys, while my husband and the trooper corralled our dogs to safety. Our house was a complete loss, and we have spent the last year and a half re-building. By the grace of God, and that State Trooper driving by, we all made it out completely unharmed.

No one ever thinks something like this will happen to them. We certainly didn’t. I think that one of the best things that can come out of our experiences is the ability to help others.

So what are some things that can be learned from this?

There are of course things that you can and should do to prepare for the possibility of a house fire. Going over your evacuation plan with your family. Checking your smoke detectors to make sure they’re working properly. These are very easy things to do and are obviously very helpful. This is what normally comes to mind when preparing for a house fire.”

We did all of those things. My husband also took extra care of our wood burner, which heated our home and was the cause of the fire. Our smoke detectors actually did not go off while we were in the house, and didn’t go off until the firemen showed up. 

Another thing most people normally do think of is home insurance. My biggest word of advice I give to anyone who will listen is to make sure you have home insurance- and enough of it.  It is something you have and pay into with the hope that you will never need to use it. But I will tell you, you will be so grateful you do have it. I would highly advise going around your house once a year and taking photographs of every room and any valuables.  I can tell you from experience, that when you have to think of the things you have in your home, it is very difficult, especially after a traumatic event. This isn’t something we did before the fire, but wish we had. Lesson learned for sure!

Be sure to find out what your insurance covers as far as “loss of use”. This coverage will help you with a place to stay. Some policies cover hotels, others cover apartments/rentals. We stayed in a rental for a year and a half while re-building.

If you do have a wood burner like we did (we don’t have one in our new home now), make sure that your insurance doesn’t have an exception to this. Luckily, ours did not. 

I wish I had some grand lesson that I could teach everyone. I think the biggest one I have learned is that you have no idea how you will react in a situation. No matter how prepared you are. When myself and my boys made it to our neighbor’s house across the street, she pointed out that I didn’t have any shoes on. I hadn’t even realized it until she mentioned it. Looking back, I walked right past our shoe and coat rack on the way out of the house, and didn’t think to grab shoes or coats for anyone. I suppose that’s what shock will do to you. I think most of us have some sort of idea as to how they would handle a situation when it happens, but I’m here to tell you, sometimes that goes right out the window. And that’s just simply part of being human.

I was very grateful that I did a little bit of “prepping” before our fire (I’ve learned so much since then!) and had quite a few items in my vehicle. Once the fire was put out, I was able to go back to my car and get the extra clothes I had for my boys, some blankets and even dog leashes for our dogs. Don’t underestimate your car preps to help you after something like a house fire. As long as your car survives the fire, it can be a huge help! Just something to think about. 

Thank you for the opportunity to share our story.  We all work on preparedness in the hopes that we will never need to use it. But I truly believe we can use these experiences to help others and share our lessons learned. 

Key Takeaways

I am so grateful for Michelle’s willingness to share with us, and I wanted to reiterate in bullet points what she said she does now after experiencing a house fire.

  • Go over evacuation plan frequently
  • Check smoke detectors
  • Take extra care of wood burning stoves
  • Make sure you have homeowners insurance, and enough of it
  • If you have a woodburning stove make sure insurance doesn’t have an exception to them
  • Once a year take photos of every room and valuables
  • Find out what your insurance covers as far as “loss of use”
  • Keep car stocked with extra clothes, shoes, etc.

Links you might like.

Fire safety Amazon Store Front
Car Kit Amazon Store Front

Hi I'm JaNae!

I consider myself a practical prepper. I am not about zombies and bunkers. I believe in preparing for personal disasters — job loss, medical problems, financial problems, and natural disasters.

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