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10 Things All Families Need to Know in Case of a House Fire

House fires are much more common than people think, even if you don’t live in a fire-prone area like California. Between 2013 and 2017, U.S. fire departments reported 354,400 residential house fires per year. According to NFPA, “These fires caused an annual average of 2,620 civilian deaths; 11,220 civilian fire injuries; and $6.9 billion in direct property damage.” 

House fires can be prevented by things such as having fireproof house exterior and interior materials, but sometimes accidents, open flames and chaotic cooking happen. Nichiha is passionate about fire safety; that’s why we’ve put together this list about what to do in case of a house fire. 

1. Add Fire Ladders to Your Upper Floors and Windows to Your Basement

There are certain tools that can give you peace of mind when it comes to your family and the risk of house fires.

Many companies have ladders available that you can easily store away in a box or cupboard and pull out to use as an escape route in case of a fire or other emergency. These escape ladders are often lightweight, so all a child would need to do is open the window, toss the end outside and climb down to safety. 

If you have children or any adult family members sleeping in the basement, you should install an egress window that allows them to have direct access outside the house without having to go up the stairs to the main floor like they normally would. 

2. Show Children How to Escape From Windows and Crawl on the Floor

Depending on the layout of your home, a window may be the only viable escape option. Make sure you walk everyone in the home through the process of how to open windows, climb out and jump to the ground safely or climb down a ladder — or even just how to break a (potentially stuck) window and climb out without cutting themselves.

Fire produces smoke and poisonous gases that can cause lightheadedness or make you lose consciousness if overly inhaled. To escape a fire and its fumes, you need to crawl to the closest exit, remembering that it may be a window. Staying low to the ground makes you less likely to inhale toxic gases as they rise. Make sure everyone knows to stay under the smoke when evacuating to avoid smoke inhalation issues.

3. Decide on a Family Meeting Spot

Once you and your family are able to make it outside, make sure to move away from the fire to a safe location. Part of the home, like the roof or non-fire-resistant siding, may catch fire and fall around the perimeter of the building and produce large amounts of smoke. Make sure your family has a designated spot to meet for safety that is a short distance away, such as across the street or down the block.

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4. Regular Smoke Detector Checks

Smoke detectors may be one of the most important items in your home when it comes to fire safety. You need to regularly test them to ensure they function correctly. 

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, smoke detectors should be tested at least once a month and you should replace your batteries once or twice a year. An easy way to remember to change your batteries is to align it with daylight savings time. 

A good rule of thumb is to make sure you read your smoke detector’s manual for any information regarding upkeep, especially if you have newer, innovative models that may be different from the kind you grew up with.

5. Call 911 as Quickly as You Can

If you have your cell phone, call 911 as soon as your family has exited the home to safety. If you don’t have your phone, go to a neighbor’s house and ask to borrow a phone. Tell the 911 operator that there has been a fire at your home address and keep the line open for any questions they may have. 

6. Know to Check Doorknobs and Doors for Heat

As you are escaping, if you must go through a door to get to an exit, check to see if the door is hot first. If the door or doorknob is warm to the touch, there could be a large fire on the other side that will only get bigger if you open the door and send oxygen rushing in — an event called backdraft. Do not go through that door. Find an alternative, safer exit.

7. Assign Routes for Each Family Member

Most fires that aren’t caused by cooking kitchen fires occur at night, which makes it more likely that residents will be asleep and unaware of the fire until the smoke alarm goes off.

When you move in the home — and once or twice a year — you should review your home’s floor plan and create an escape route for each resident from various points in the home, including bedrooms. At least once a year, you should practice escape routes to ensure everyone knows how to get to safety as quickly as possible. A known, practiced plan is necessary to make your exits smooth and safe.

8. What to Do if There Is No Clear Escape Route

Even with preparation, children (and adults) can be frightened by the reality of a fire. Children especially have a tendency to hide and stay quiet even when they know that they shouldn’t when scared or panicked. Other times, the fire may have spread so quickly that there is no route to escape without harm. 

Tell your children to listen for help at all times, whether it is from your voice or a first responder’s when they are trying to get out of the fire. If possible, take your child to a fire department and introduce them to firefighters in full uniform so they aren’t terrified of the sight in the unlikely event that they experience it. 

When a fire actually happens, it can take everyone by surprise, and you can’t always predict how your body or your mind will actually react. Practice as much as you can so you and your family can make reactions instinctual, regardless of the fear you may feel during a fire.

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9. Try to Extinguish the Fire If Possible

Sometimes, if the fire has just sparked and you are present, you may be able to contain it. This often is the case with a kitchen fire. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher in an easy-to-grab and obvious spot — and make sure you practice how to use it. 

Pull the pin, aim at the base of the flames, squeeze your extinguisher handle and spray from side to side until the fire is completely extinguished. Spray until the fire is no longer smoldering. 

While fire extinguishers should never be used as a replacement for smoke detectors, they can be a great added layer of safety. Extinguishers can put out fires that water cannot, making them extremely useful.

10. Build Your Home With Fire-Resistant Materials 

It is incredibly important to build and protect your home with fire-resistant materials, from the windows to the roof to the exterior siding.

Fire-resistant materials you can use include:

Nichiha’s fiber cement can provide an added layer of fire safety when used as part of any wall assembly with its one-hour fire rating. When it is exposed directly to flames, fiber cement will not add any fuel to a fire and will not cause combustion or spread flames. It has passed strenuous fire safety tests, like ASTM E-84 and NFPA 285, classifying it as a Class A building material.

In the Redwood Valley Mendocino Lake Complex Fire that destroyed 546 structures, burnt 36,000 acres and took the lives of 8 people, the only building left standing was built with Nichiha’s fiber cement.

If you are looking to better protect your home and your family, Nichiha architectural wall panels and fiber cement siding are durable and nearly maintenance-free. For more inspiration and information on fire-resistant building materials options, visit the Nichiha website today. 

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