Know What to Do in a Home Fire? Get Prepared with 5 Easy Tips

If a fire broke out in your home, would you know exactly what to do? Would your kids? Home fires are the biggest disaster threat facing American families today, with one home fire reported every 86 seconds in 2014. Despite this threat, many families aren’t prepared. In a recent survey* of parents, only half of parents said their children know what to do if there’s a fire in the home. We practice fire drills at work and at school, so why not at home where fires are most likely to occur?

Use these tips to make sure everyone in your family – especially children – knows what to do if there’s a fire.

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Participate in Home Fire Drill Day

To encourage families to be more prepared when it comes to fire safety, Nationwide’s Make Safe Happen program is launching a new national observance day — Home Fire Drill Day — on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. On this day, families across the country are encouraged to practice their home fire drills. Tools like and the Make Safe Happen app make practicing easy for families. Experts recommend practicing several times a year so mark your calendar for a future practice.

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Teach kids what to do in an emergency

Any emergency, but especially one at home like a fire, can be very scary for children. For some, their instinct may be to hide or to gather toys rather than getting out of the house as quickly as possible. With the help of expert partners, Make Safe Happen developed a series of interactive fire drill games available at that parents can play with their children to make practicing a fire drill memorable and entertaining for kids. From racing the clock, to a new twist on musical chairs, use these games to make fire safety fun for the whole family.


Draw your fire escape plan and keep it visible

Practicing your plan is essential, but Safe Kids Worldwide recommends reinforcing your plan by drawing it out. As you draw your plan, show all the doors and windows, being sure to identify two ways out of every room. If you have infants or young children, assign an adult who will be responsible for getting them out of the house safely and write the assignment on your plan. Also mark your “safety spot” outside where your family will meet. It should be a safe distance away from your home and remind kids to “get out and stay out.” If you live in an apartment, pull the alarm to alert others.

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Get out quickly, you have less than 2 minutes

With synthetic furniture and building materials being more prevalent, home fires burn faster than they used to. Today, families have just two minutes or less to exit their homes safely in the event of a fire, according to American Red Cross. This makes a speedy practice that much more important. Make sure everyone in the family knows how quickly they need to leave the house once they hear the fire alarm. Looking for a timer to help? The free Make Safe Happen app includes a home fire drill tool with a built-in timer to ensure everyone is outside safely in two minutes or less.


Check your smoke alarms, because they expire

Smoke alarms are your first line of defense so it’s imperative that they’re working.
Make sure you have smoke alarms on every level of the home and place one in each room where someone sleeps. Strive to check smoke alarms at the change of every season and replace batteries annually (consider investing in 10-year batteries). Smoke alarms do expire – install a new one every 10 years, or as recommended by the manufacturer. Finally, have children listen to what the alarm sounds like so they get familiar with the sound and what it means.

*The Make Safe Happen survey was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Nationwide between November 4, 2015 and November 13, 2015, among 1,001 U.S. parents or guardians of children ages 0 to 12 years old.