7 easy ways you can prepare for a home fire in Birmingham

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American Red Cross, Fire Safety Plan
Planning out your Fire Safety Plan can help save lives in the event of a fire. Photo via Nathan Watson for Bham Now

Did you know that fires are the single most common disaster in the nation, killing more Americans each year than all natural disasters combined? Home fires aren’t a risk to be taken lightly—that’s why the American Red Cross is dedicated to helping families prepare for the worst. Check out these 7 easy tips YOU can take to keep your family safe in the event of a home fire.

Get Started with a Home Fire Escape Plan from the American Red Cross

According to the American Red Cross, only 26% of families have developed and practiced a Home Fire Escape Plan. Home fires are fast and devastating—in fact, you could have as little as 2 minutes to safely escape. That’s why it’s so important to devise and practice your Home Fire Escape Plan.

Luckily, the American Red Cross has developed easy-to-use guides that’ll help you plan out your escape:

In addition to your Home Fire Escape Plan, be sure to follow these 7 easy tips, so you know what to do in the event of a home fire.

1. Install Smoke Alarms (and know when to test them)

American Red Cross, Fire Safety Plan
Planning out your Fire Safety Plan can help save lives in the event of a fire. Photo via Nathan Watson for Bham Now

According to the American Red Cross, having a smoke alarm can cut your risk of dying in a fire nearly in half. So, it’s safe to say that having a smoke alarm is important—even if you regularly set it off while cooking bacon (and yes, I’m guilty).

At minimum, you should install a fire alarm on each floor of your home. In fact, the National Fire Alarm Code (NFPA 72) mandates hard-wired, interconnected smoke alarms (with a battery backup!) on each level of the home, outside each sleeping area and inside every bedroom. That may sound like a lot, but when it comes to the safety of your family, it’s better to over prepare.

In addition, make sure to:

  • Test your smoke alarms at least every month
  • Replace the batteries at least once a year, if you have battery-powered soke alarms
  • Replace your smoke alarms entirely after 10 years
  • If you have pets, install smoke alarms in their area of the home

2. Teach your children what Smoke Alarms sound like, and what to do when you hear one

While practicing your Home Fire Safety Plan, be sure to teach your children what a smoke alarm sounds like. You could test your alarm, play this smoke alarm sound effect on YouTube or—my favorite—accidently overcook your bacon.

3. Know two ways to escape each room

Fire Escape Plan
A fire escape ladder, just like this, can help you escape in the event of a fire. Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now

It’s always good to have a Plan B, especially in the case of a home fire. That’s why it’s so important to be familiar with two exits for every room in your house. Consider purchasing escape ladders for bedrooms on the second and third floors of your home, and store them near the window where they would be used.

Pro Tip: If you’re trapped and cannot reach an exit, call 911, close doors and hang a white sheet outside your window so the Fire Department can locate you quickly.

4. Establish a family emergency communications plan

Family Emergency Plan from the American Red Cross

During a home fire, communication during and immediately after the emergency can be hectic. That’s why it’s important to establish a Family Emergency Communications Plan to ensure all household members know who to contact if they can’t find one another.

Click here to fill out for Family Emergency Communications Plan.

5. Practice your Home Fire Escape Plan twice a year

Once you have your Home Fire Escape Plan in place, schedule a time for your household to practice escaping your home at least twice a year. In fact, you could even press the smoke alarm test button or yell “Fire” to alert your household to the test.

6. Know how and when to call 9-1-1

American Red Cross, Fire Safety Plan
Planning out your Fire Safety Plan can help save lives in the event of a fire. Photo via Nathan Watson for Bham Now

If a fire starts, remember to GET OUT, STAY OUT and CALL 9-1-1 or your local emergency number. Make sure all members of your household know how to dial 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency.

7. Know how to STOP, DROP and ROLL

American Red Cross
American Red Cross volunteers helping a victim of a home fire. Photo via the American Red Cross on Facebook

Nearly everyone remembers the phrase STOP, DROP and ROLL—but chances are you haven’t practiced this live-saving exercise since grade school. While walking through your Home Fire Escape Plan, make sure all family members know what to do if their clothes catch on fire:

  • STOP what you’re doing.
  • DROP to the ground and cover your face if you can.
  • ROLL over and over or back and forth until the flames go out. Running will only make the fire burn faster.

And that’s not all. Once the fire is out, cool any burned skin with water for three to five minutes and call for medical attention.

Learn More with the American Red Cross

Red Cross
Red Cross members install smoke alarms during their annual Sound the Alarm campaign. Photo via American Red Cross on Facebook

To learn even more tips for home fire safety, check out the Home Fire Safety Checklist, practice the Fire Escape Plan Worksheets and visit the American Red Cross’ website to read more home fire information.

Have you developed and practiced a Home Fire Escape Plan? Tag the American Red Cross of Alabama at @ala_redcross to let them know!

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Nathan Watson
Tennessee native who fell in love with Birmingham during college. Graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 2019. Passionate about Birmingham and its continued growth.
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