Dinner simmering on the stove. Candles flickering on the table. Logs crackling in the fireplace. These are the things that warm our winters—and help make this the peak season for home fires.*
Each year more than 2,500 people die and 12,600 are injured in home fires in this country. Direct property loss is estimated at $7.3 billion annually.**
Most people underestimate how quickly a fire can spread—and overestimate their ability to extinguish or escape from it.
It takes less than 30 seconds for a small flame to turn into a major fire, and just five minutes for the room temperature to get hot enough to ignite every combustible object in the room simultaneously.**
Fortunately, you can improve your odds of preventing or surviving a home fire.
These 2 Simple Steps Can Help You Survive a Fire
1. Make sure you have working smoke alarms.
According to the Red Cross, working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in a fire in half.† To keep them working properly, follow these guidelines from FEMA:**
- Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement. The U.S. Fire Administration recommends installing smoke alarms both inside and outside of sleeping areas.
- Install both ionization AND photoelectric smoke alarms OR dual sensor smoke alarms, which contain both ionization and photoelectric smoke sensors. (See Smoke Detector Buying Tips.)
- Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing smoke alarms.
- Test batteries monthly.
- Replace batteries in battery-powered and hard-wired smoke alarms at least once a year, except non-replaceable 10-year lithium batteries.
- Replace the entire smoke alarm unit every 8 to 10 years or according to manufacturer’s instructions.
2. Make a fire escape plan—and practice it.
Fire experts agree that you may have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home before it’s too late to get out.† Follow these tips from FEMA to create an escape plan:**
- Find two ways to get out of each room.
- If you need collapsible ladders to escape from upper-story windows, purchase only those evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL).
- Make sure that windows are not stuck, screens can be taken out quickly, and that security bars can be opened. Windows and doors with security bars must have quick-release devices to let them be opened immediately in an emergency.
- Practice feeling your way out of the house in the dark or with your eyes closed. In a real fire, you may be blinded by smoke or disoriented and unable to navigate the home you’ve lived in for years.
- Practice your escape plan twice each year.
Time your drills; everyone should be able to escape in 2 minutes or less. Revise your escape plan if a family member has a change in health, especially one that causes even the slightest functional limitation involving hearing, vision or mobility, for example.
This printable worksheet can help you make your escape plan.
Home Fires Are Preventable!
Of course, the best way to prevent loss is to prevent fires in the first place. Since most home fires start in the kitchen, here are a few simple steps you can take to help keep your home and loved ones safe:**
- Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you must leave for even a short time, turn off the stove.
- Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking.
- Do not cook if you are sleepy, have been drinking alcohol, or have taken medicine that makes you drowsy.
The Hartford is committed to helping keep you, your loved ones and your home safe.
- Download or order The Hartford’s guidebook Fire Sense: A Smart Way to Prevent, Detect and Escape Home Fires to learn more valuable information about the most common causes of home fires, lifestyle changes that can reduce your risk, and what to do if fire strikes.
- Take a personalized Fire Risk Assessment developed by The Hartford and a leading fire scientist. Simply answer a few questions and receive your individualized score and information to help you improve your home fire safety.
- Make sure you have the right amount of home insurance to safeguard your home and belongings.