I’ve never personally been through a house fire, but I know friends and family that have, and it is devastating. In many cases, most possessions of material and sentimental value are lost, and the residents are left to pick up the pieces and start over.
No matter how careful we are – keeping heaters clear, resisting the temptation to stick just one more plug in the outlet, and hiding the matches away from kids – there may still be forces beyond our control or knowledge that sparks the preliminary flame; lightning strikes, a wayward flicked cigarette, or a badly wired heat lamp in your roommate’s secret marijuana garden (true story!) can be sudden and unexpected fire hazards, so it’s important to always be prepared.
Nothing but time can soothe the feelings of loss and distress over losing a home, but these tips may help in salvaging the important building blocks to a faster recovery, and ensuring the best chance of survival for you and your family if misfortune does strike.
The Things You’ll Want to Have
I never liked the ear-splitting screeches of alarm systems, but I admit they are extremely effective in signaling that something’s wrong. Installing a smoke detector in your home can potentially alert you, and everyone in the house, to the presence of fire before you would have noticed it yourself, and with something as quick to spread as fire, every second counts. Smoke detectors will let you know with short, persistent beeps when the batteries are low and need to be changed, but it’s good to change them at least once a year.
Although you unfortunately can’t save everything in a fire, there are some things that should be protected in case one does occur. Important documents such as birth certificates, social security, insurance papers, passports and the like should be stored in fireproof containers. Identification, credentials, and proof of insurance are some of the first things you’ll need on the path of recovery, so decide which documents are most important and don’t delay in ensuring that they’re safe.
-Emergency food storage-
Meals can be expensive, and with the loss of a home, you’d want to focus funds on getting back on your feet as quickly as possible. Having access to cheap, nutritious food can help alleviate that particular source of stress. There are kit options available that provide enough food to feed families for months to years for less than $2 a meal, saving you that much more money to put toward rebuilding to stability.
The Things You Might Not Have Thought About
Remember those fire drills we had to endlessly practice in grade school? By the end of each year, they were so routine, we could practically evacuate the building in our sleep – in fact, I’m pretty sure some of my classmates did do it in their sleep. Well, an evacuation plan is no less important to regularly practice in your home. Note each route in every room of the house with alternatives in case a path becomes blocked. Be sure to walk and talk the plan through with young children at least twice a year, and it never hurts to remind the older kids either. Knowing where to go will help keep everyone a bit calmer and get everyone to safety faster.
-A clear path-
An escape plan might not be any good if your designated pathways become blocked. Regularly cleaning house and clearing clutter reduces the chance of tripping or knocking into things, potentially causing injury or wasting precious time on the way out. Stacks and boxes of flammable objects are especially important to keep tidy and out of the way.
-Get to know your neighborhood-
Houses are built so close together these days, so the risk of fire spread is higher. If you feel your neighbor’s house is hazardously close, talk it over with them and make plans about how to alert each other if one house catches fire and how to cooperatively handle the situation.