Find out what to do in case of a fire, plus ways to prevent one from happening in your home.
House fires are among the most common disasters in the country. In fact, about 27 percent of all fires in the U.S. occur in residential homes. And according to the National Fire Protection Association, residential fires are the leading cause of fire-related deaths each year.
There are many ways to ensure your home is protected from a fire. Practicing prevention methods and following fire safety procedures can help you keep your home safe and fire-free.
Following are a few of the most common fire safety tips.
Throughout your home:
In the kitchen:
In the living room:
In the bedroom(s):
There are five types of fires, and they are usually determined by the fuel source. Types of fire are broken down into Class A, Class B, Class C, Class D, and Class K fires. Based on the classification of fire, there are also different types of fire extinguishers.
Class A fires burn ordinary combustibles as their fuel source, including wood, cloth, trash, plastics, and paper. Class A fires are often accidental – for example, a bonfire that grew too large or a trash fire that spread quickly.
Class A fire extinguishers normally use pressurized water or dry chemicals. While the water works to put the fire out, the dry chemicals absorb the heat or coat the fire completely.
Class B fires burn from flammable liquid or gas. Commonly, Class B fires include gasoline, kerosene, or petroleum-based oils and paints. Butane and propane also act as a fuel source in Class B fires. It’s important to note that any fire created by cooking is classified as a Class K fire.
Many times, the best way to extinguish a class B fire is by smothering the fire to cut off its oxygen. Class B fire extinguishers normally use carbon dioxide, foam agents, dry chemicals, and clean agents. These types of Class B fire extinguishers will remove the oxygen or the heat from the fire.
Class C fires stem from electrical equipment such as wiring, machinery, appliances, or motors. Class C fires are most common in industries or businesses that use heavy machinery or electrical equipment. However, Class C fires can occur in small businesses or residential homes if they result from faulty wiring or appliances malfunctioning.
To extinguish a Class C fire, start by shutting off the power source. From there, Class C fire extinguishers will fight electrical fires by releasing materials that cut off the conduction of electricity. Class C fire extinguishers use non-conductive materials such as carbon dioxide, dry chemicals, or clean agents.
It is important to note that you should never use a water-based extinguisher on a Class C fire. Fighting an electrical fire with water is not only ineffective, but also dangerous and can put you at risk of electrical shock. When choosing a Class C fire extinguisher, be sure to stick to the approved materials.
Class D fires are fueled by combustible metals such as aluminum, magnesium, titanium, and lithium as the fuel source. Class D fires can be especially dangerous in lab environments.
Class D fire extinguishers should not include water, which can intensify the heat of the fire when combined with Class D fire fuel sources. Instead, Class D fire extinguishers should use a dry powder agent to fight the fire. Dry powder agents include powdered graphite, granular sodium chloride, or a copper-based extinguisher. Dry powder extinguishers will smother and remove the oxygen from the Class D fire.
Class K fires are cooking fires involving oils and grease found in kitchens. Naturally, Class K fires are most common in the food and restaurant industries. When a Class K fire reaches a high temperature, it can spread quickly and become especially destructive.
Class K fire extinguishers use a process called saponification – which releases an alkaline agent to create a foam. The foam from a Class K fire extinguisher separates the fuel from the oxygen and absorbs the heat from the fire.
Only a Class K fire extinguisher should be used on a Class K fire. Water-based fire extinguishers will only spread a Class K fire because it is fueled by grease or oil.
It’s important to understand the components of a fire. There are four key elements that make a fire: fuel, oxygen, heat, and the chemical reaction of fire. See the fire triangle below:
The first step in using a fire extinguisher is to determine which type would work best in a certain environment. For example, a Class K fire extinguisher – which uses alkaline agents – is best suited for a kitchen or restaurant. Meanwhile, a Class B extinguisher is best for putting out gasoline-fueled fires, so it’s a good idea to have it on hand when grilling at home.
Experts recommend using the P.A.S.S. method when using a fire extinguisher:
Here is a step-by-step explanation of what to do in the event of a fire:
Microwaves: If the fire has not spread past the microwave, close the microwave door and unplug the appliance if you’re able to safely reach the outlet. Shutting the door will cut the fire off from oxygen and suffocate the flames.
Ovens: If the fire has not spread past the oven, close the oven door and unplug it if you can safely reach the outlet. If the fire has spread or is too large to close the door, use the proper fire extinguisher to put out the flames. The type of fire extinguisher you should use will depend on what started the fire. For example, if the fire is grease-fueled, use a Class K extinguisher. If the fire started due to faulty wiring, use a Class C extinguisher.
Gas fires: Water will not put out a gas fire. If you don’t have the proper fire extinguisher on hand, try to smother the flames using a blanket. If you own a gas fireplace, make sure you have the correct type of fire extinguisher nearby.
Televisions: The heat from a television can start a fire if flammable objects are too close. And, like most types of electric devices, televisions can malfunction, spark, and cause an electrical fire. If your television is smoking or on fire, unplug it if you’re able to do so safely. Be sure to have the correct type of fire extinguisher in your home in the event of an electrical fire.
Campfires: If your weekend plans involve burning a campfire, remember to keep the flames at a manageable level and never leave the fire unattended. Once the wood has burned down to ash, pour water onto the embers until you no longer hear a sizzling sound. If you don’t have water on hand, dirt will also put out the embers. Before leaving the campfire, carefully test the heat level with your hand. If it still feels hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave unattended.
Fires can lead to a myriad of environmental, societal, and financial hardships. In the U.S. alone, NIFC reported more than 52,000 wildfires burned nearly 8.9 million acres in 2020.
2020 was a particularly bad year for wildfires in the U.S. More than 30 fatalities were reported on the West Coast as wildfires ravaged California, Oregon, and Washington.
House fires can lead to deep financial stress. The average insurance claim for a house fire is about $80,000. Currently, fires are the fourth most common insurance claim for property damage.
People ages 65 or older are twice as likely to be injured or die in a house fire compared to the rest of the population. Following are fire safety tips for senior citizens.
More than 43 million Americans live with a disability. So, it’s important to understand how to stay safe in the event of a fire. Here are fire safety tips for people with disabilities:
A fire can have a major impact on your life. But preparing ahead of time and practicing prevention habits can ease the risk of house fires.
The most important tip in this guide is to make a safety plan for your household. With your fire safety plan intact, you can escape from a house fire with minimal damage.
It’s worth noting that everyone’s fire safety plan will look different. Depending on your living situation, you may need to account for different challenges if a fire breaks out. That’s ok – just think through what you will need to quickly and safely exit your home.
“In just two minutes a fire can become life-threatening, ready.gov says. In five minutes, a residence can be engulfed in flames. Prepare now for what could happen.”