Get Out Alive: Surviving And Preventing Fires

4:24 PM, Feb 21, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA9)--Every year more than 3,500 Americans die in fires and over 18,000 are injured.  This is according to the U.S. Fire Administration.  Most of these incidents occur in people's homes.

WUSA9 is committed to serving the community and the information below is intended to show you ways to protect your loved ones and house from fires.  The bottom line, prior planning can help prevent tragedy.


  • Plan and practice your escape route on a regular basis. Make sure everyone has 2 ways go get out of every room.
  • Designate a meeting place outside where everyone gathers after escaping a fire.  This allows you to account for all family members and inform the fire department if anyone is missing. 
  • NEVER go back inside a burning building.
  • Teach children NOT to hide from firefighters.
  • Call 911 from a neighbor's house to report the fire. Do NOT stay in a burning house to make the call.
  • If you have deadbolt locks that require a key to exit, leave the key in the lock.  You will not find the key in the smoke of a fire.  All security windows should have quick-release devices.
  • Before opening doors, test them.  Touch the door, the knob and the frame.  If they are hot, use another escape route.
  • If the door and frame are not hot, and you do open the door, brace your body against the door, while staying low to the floor and slowly open it a crack.  You are checking for any smoke or fire in the hallway.
  • If you do attempt to open the door, brace your body against the door while staying low to the floor and slowly open it a crack. What you are doing is checking for the presence of smoke or fire in the hallway.
  • Smoke RISES.  The best air is NEAR THE FLOOR.  If your planned escape route fills with smoke, STAY LOW!  With your mouth and nose covered, crawl on your hands and knees to the nearest safe exit.
  • Do NOT use elevators.  Take the stairs.
  • If you do become trapped, stuff towels, sheets etc. around the door and vents to keep smoke out of the room.  If you can wet these items before hand this is ideal.
  • If there is a phone in the room, call 911 to let them know where you are.  Stay near a window waving a light-colored cloth or flashlight signaling your location. 
  • If your clothes catch fire, DON'T run.  Stop, drop and roll over to smother the flames.



  • Install one on each level of your home and outside of each sleeping area.  Ideally, also place detectors in every bedroom--especially if the occupant is a smoker.
  • Test smoke detectors MONTHLY.  Replace the battery twice a year or when the detector "chirps."
  • If your smoke detector is 10-years-old or older, it should be replaced.



  • Close bedroom doors at night to provide a barrier from smoke and fire.
  • Place a chain ladder in upper level rooms.  Practice using the ladder.
  • Do NOT smoke in bed.
  • Give space heaters space:  they should be placed at least 3 feet from bedding, furniture and draperies. Try to purchase one with an automatic shut-off switch.
  • Do not trap electric cords against walls where heat can build up.
  • Replace mattresses made before the 2007 Federal Mattress Flammability Standard. Mattresses made since then are required by law to be safer.



  • Keep a fire extinguisher readily accessible.
  • Plug microwave ovens and other cooking appliances directly into a wall outlet. Never use an extension cord for a cooking appliance - it can overload the circuit and cause a fire.
  • Unplug small appliances such as coffee makers, toasters, and televisions when not in use.  If your house loses power, and suddenly comes back on, a sudden power surge could cause a fire. Also, if the appliance has any frayed wires or internal issues a fire could happen.
  • Put no more than 2 appliances on an electrical outlet.
  • Pot and pan handles should be turned INWARD when used on the stove.  Don't leave cooking unattended.
  • Wear clothing with tight fitting sleeves when using the stove.
  • Stoves and ovens should be kept free of grease at all times.  Clean hood vent and stove heating elements on a regular basis.



  • Avoid using extension cords.  If you must, do not overload them.  Inspect cords and plugs routinely for cracked wiring.  Repair or replace loose plugs.  Keep the cords from under carpets and/or through doorways.
  • Be sure televisions, stereos and other electrical equipment have enough space to dissipate the heat they produce. 
  • Provide large. deep ashtrays for smokers.  Do NOT place ashtrays on furniture arms.  Check furniture for any dropped ashes or butts before leaving the room.  Wet ashtray contents before discarding them.



  • Inspect chimneys annually for obstructions, loose mortar and creosote build-up.  Put a screen on the outside mouth of the chimney.  Hot embers can escape and ignite your roof or trees.
  • Use fireplace only with closed metal screens or glass doors.
  • Dispose of ashes in metal container away from the house and garage.



  • Have furnace professionally inspected BEFORE the start of every heating season.
  • Make sure your furnace has a safety pilot that shuts off the flow of fuel if the pilot light goes out.
  • If you smell gas inside, EVERYONE should leave the house immediately.  Leave doors OPEN to ventilate the area.  Do NOT operate electrical switches or equipment--including telephones and flashlights.
  • Oil rags and painting materials can self-ignite.  Store them in airtight metal containers.
  • NEVER store or use flammable products in the same room with an electric or gas appliance.  Store flammable products in metal containers away from heat or flame. 
  • Keep all newspapers away from heat sources-this includes furnaces and hot water heaters.
  • Clean clothes dryer link collector after EVERY use.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher in the basement and garage.



  • Make sure television antenna is properly grounded.  Lightning strikes the HIGHEST point of a house.
  • Place a barbecue grill well away from siding, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches. The rule of thumb is that grills should be at least 30-feet from houses.
  • NEVER use lighter fluid after the fire is lit.
  • Dispose of coals in a metal container and store away from house and garage.
  • Store propane for grills outside.  Check gas grills for leaks. 
  • Store unused charcoal in a cool, dry area.  It can self-ignite under certain conditions. 


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