Are You Ready?


Image of the interior of a home on fire

Each year, more than 4,000 Americans die and more than 25,000 are injured in fires, many of which could be prevented. Direct property loss due to fires is estimated at $8.6 billion annually.

To protect yourself, it is important to understand the basic characteristics of fire. Fire spreads quickly; there is no time to gather valuables or make a phone call. In just two minutes, a fire can become life-threatening. In five minutes, a residence can be engulfed in flames.

Heat and smoke from fire can be more dangerous than the flames. Inhaling the super-hot air can sear your lungs. Fire produces poisonous gases that make you disoriented and drowsy. Instead of being awakened by a fire, you may fall into a deeper sleep. Asphyxiation is the leading cause of fire deaths, exceeding burns by a three-to-one ratio.

Take Protective Measures

Before a Fire
Smoke Alarms

Escaping the Fire:

Flammable Items

Heating Sources

Matches and Smoking

Electrical Wiring


During a Fire
If your clothes catch on fire, you should:

To escape a fire, you should:

Hot Door Cool Door
Do not open. Escape through a window. If you cannot escape, hang a white or light-colored sheet outside the window, alerting fire fighters to your presence. Open slowly and ensure fire and/or smoke is not blocking your escape route. If your escape route is blocked, shut the door immediately and use an alternate escape route, such as a window. If clear, leave immediately through the door and close it behind you. Be prepared to crawl. Smoke and heat rise. The air is clearer and cooler near the floor.

After a Fire
The following are guidelines for different circumstances in the period following a fire:

Knowledge Check
Answer each question and check your responses using the answer key.

  1. You need to escape a fire through a closed door. What, if anything, should you do before opening the door?
  2. What should you do if your clothes are on fire?
  3. What actions should be taken for burn victims?
  4. To reduce heating costs, you installed a wood-burning stove. What can you do to reduce the risk of fire from this heating source?
  5. To escape in thick smoke, what should you do?

For More Information

If you require more information about any of these topics, the following are resources that may be helpful.

FEMA Publications
After the Fire: Returning to Normal. FA 046. This 16-page booklet provides information about recovering from a fire, including what to do during the first 24 hours, insurance considerations, valuing your property, replacement of valuable documents, salvage hints, fire department operations, and more.

Protecting Your Family From Fire. FA 130. This pamphlet was written to provide the information you need to decide what you must do to protect your family from fire. Topics include children, sleepwear, older adults, smoke detectors, escape plans, and residential sprinklers.

Fire Risks for the Hard of Hearing. FA 202; Fire Risks for the Older Adult. FA 203; Fire Risks for the Mobility Impaired. FA 204; Fire Risks for the Blind or Visually Impaired. FA 205 These reports address preparation for fire risks for populations with special challenges.

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Last Modified: Friday, 30-May-2008 10:16:30 EDT