What to do if your house is on fire?

Picture of a house on fire.
Knowing some of the common mistakes that have cost people their lives can help you to avoid them if your home catches fire."

Although your house may have not caught fire, that does not mean it will never will. The possibility always exists because there are so many factors that can cause a fire.

On average, a house catches fire about every fifty seconds. It would be wise, therefore to be prepared in case this happens to your house.

Supposed you are suddenly awakened during the night by the smell of smoke. What would you do? But how can you make advance plans to deal with fire challenges?

Avoiding making fatal mistakes


If you rush to the bedroom door and fling it open you could be making a fatal mistake that would likely cost your life.

It is not necessary for the flames actually to reach a person for one to be killed in a house fire. They can be on the ground floor and still be deadly to a person upstairs.

That is the most dangerous place to be when there is a fire. Heat and smoke ascend the staircase, trapping the people in the upper rooms.

Unfortunately, if the bedrooms doors are open, the poisonous gases in the smoke will very likely kill the people sleeping there without ever awakening them.

Even if someone does awake, the gases are still likely to kill him if he does not get out quickly.

There is better chance of living longer and escaping if the bedroom doors are always kept closed at night. They act as a temporary barrier to the heat and smoke.

Now, why would it be fatal mistake to fling a bedroom door open when there is a fire accumulation?

If the bedroom doors are closed, the hot gases of the fire accumulate in the upstairs hallway. Their temperature can reach 1000 degree F., and the smoke and pressure can be great.

When a door is opened, the hot gases rush through the doorway into the cooler bedroom. You can well imagine what gases heated to 1000 degrees F. would do to a person opening the door.

Even if you were to breathe air that is heated to 300 degrees F. you would die in a few minutes.

Instead of opening the door, you should first put your hand on the inside panel. If it is hot, you should not open the door under any circumstances, not even in attempt to save others.

You would never make it across the threshold. You should awake others by pounding on it and shouting.

They too, however should know the dangers of a hot door. Escape can then be made through a window, and from the outside you can help others to escape.

But supposed the panel of the door is not hot, what then? You might take the chance on opening the door, but with extreme care.

To prevent it from being forced open by accumulated gases that are deadly, you should brace your body against the door with your face turned away from the edge where the doorknob is.

Your foot should be placed against the door at the floor level to prevent it from being forced open by gases.

Then open the door carefully. If pressure is felt against the door it should be slammed shut immediately.

If not, you can open it gradually and see if the hallway is sufficient free of smoke so that you can go downstairs.

If it is, you can run while in a crouched position, as smoke will usually be nearer the ceiling than the floor. In some instances you might have to crawl along the floor.

But if the hallway is filled with dense choking smoke, you would be making a fatal mistake trying to escape through it.

Even if you tried holding your breath, you would not likely be able to hold it long enough to get out.

The gases in the smoke could render you unconscious very quickly and kill you in a few minutes. Eleven to fourteen toxic gases are given off from the burning of various things in a house.

In fact, eighty percent of the people killed in a house fire lose their lives because of these gases. So do not under-estimate dense smoke and try and avoid it as much as possible.

Get out as quickly you can and stay there


No matter how small a fire is, get everyone out of the house immediately. A woman who failed to do this lost her children.

She found a fire smoldering in a chair, but instead of getting her children out of the house first she ran to a neighbor for help.

The two women carried the chair outside, but the children, who had been sleeping upstairs, were found dead.

The toxic gases from the burning chair had gone up the stairway into their bedroom and killed them.

Other people make the mistake of trying to save some of their possessions before leaving the house.

They do not realize how quickly a fire can spread and fill a house with deadly smoke. Just the few minutes they take in an effort to rescue a few valuable items could cost them their lives.

For example, one man who discovered a fire in his basement ran upstairs to save his stamp collection and some prized art objects, which he dropped to safety from the window, but never lived to retrieve them.

Material possessions can usually be replaced, but no family can replace the life of one of its members. Is it not more sensible to save first what is the most valuable – your life?

Once a person is outside he or she should stay out. One would be making a grave error if he or she runs back into the house to rescue something.

This should be especially impressed on the children of a family, as some children have run back into a burning house to rescue a pet or doll and never come out alive.

Mistakes have also been made in sending an alarm to the fire department.

Taking the time to phone the fire department while still in a burning house may delay your escape long enough to cause your death.

The best policy is to get out first and then notify the fire department on a neighbors phone.

Furthermore, even if you think that you can fight the fire, send in an alarm first.

In the event that your efforts fail, you will have professional help there before it makes much headway. If you succeed, they are not likely to feel disappointed.

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