House fires are a common occurrence, either due to fire hazards within the home or forest fires that find their way to homes. People often believe they can survive fires while being confined to their homes. However, that is not true.
You cannot survive a house fire by escaping to the basement of your home. The risks of trying to do so include smoke inhalation, carbon monoxide poisoning, burns from the heat, new fires due to the electrical appliances, and the inability to escape when the fire gets uncontrollable.
This article provides ample information on why you should not try to survive a fire in the basement, and it further provides tips on how to survive and the immediate safety measures to take.
Risks Of Being In The Basement During A Fire
Fires can be dangerous and put lives at risk; it is always advised to stay away from fires instead of trying to power through them. Below are some risks of staying in a basement of a house that is on fire.
Smoke inhalation – A basement has very little ventilation compared to the rest of the house. If your house is on fire, smoke will also enter the basement, with no room to escape from. This can quickly make it difficult to breathe and lead to asphyxiation.
Smoke inhalation can also cause burns in the respiratory tract, leading to lung damage or even death.
Limited escape routes – Just like limited windows, basements have limited escape routes compared to the rest of the house. Usually, only one escape route is available, which can prove dangerous in a fire.
Structural damage – In many cases, fires in the basement can lead to structural damage to the home. The fire can weaken the foundation or walls, leading to collapse and trapping anyone inside the basement.
Heat and flames – Heat and flames from the fire can quickly spread from the basement to other parts of the house, making it difficult to escape. In some cases, the heat can be so intense that it can cause burns or ignite combustible materials, leading to an even more dangerous situation.
Electrical hazards – In most homes, basements hold the house’s electrical components, including wirings, outlets, and other appliances. If the house is on fire, smoke and heat could cause issues in the electrical system and cause sparks which could cause further fires.
Carbon monoxide poisoning – If the fire spreads to outlets that contain gas, the fire could begin to produce carbon monoxide. The inhalation of carbon monoxide can prove to be poisonous and eventually fatal.
Safety Measures During A House Fire
Examine the safety measures below to ensure you do not put yourself and your family at risk during a house fire.
- Stay close to the ground – Warm air and smoke rise above the ground; during a fire, the air quality is worse at a higher altitude. Hence, staying as far away from the ceiling and as close to the ground as possible is best. Crawl on your hands and knees to avoid inhaling smoke and gases.
- Avoid opening doors if the doorknob is hot – If you are in the basement and there is a fire elsewhere, do not open the basement door without testing the doorknob first. If it is hot, there is likely high heat and fire outside the door. Opening the door can prove to be dangerous and spread the fire further.
- Cover your face – Use a wet towel or a damp cloth to cover your nose and mouth during a fire to filter out some of the smoke and toxic fumes.
- Use a fire extinguisher – Look for a fire extinguisher and use this to put out fires. The fire extinguisher might not help put out the entire fire, but it can help you pave a path out of the basement to the ground level and outside the house.
- Follow your escape plan – If you already have an escape plan for your house, follow it as rigorously as possible. Take the exits on the plan and reach the meeting place for the entire family.
- Call 911 – Once you are safely out of the home, call 911 immediately to report the fire. Even if you believe someone else may have already called, it is important to call 911 to ensure that help is coming.
- Stay outside – Do not make the mistake of returning to the house once you have made it out. It is best to stay outside and as far away from the fire as possible. Even if you believe someone is still inside, wait for the fire department to arrive and let them handle the situation.
Survival Strategies In A House Fire
If a fire has just occurred, below are the immediate steps that you must take to ensure you survive and safely get out of the situation.
- Get out as quickly as possible – Your first instinct after a house fire has started should be to escape the home at your earliest. Do not try to gather important items from inside the house and waste precious time. Leave home as soon as possible and call for help.
- Stay calm – staying calm is integral in all emergencies; panicking or stressing out clouds one’s judgment and makes it hard to decide. Try to stay calm and focused on getting out of the house.
- Find a safe exit – Identify the safest and quickest route out of the house before moving; ensure no fire at these exits. Use the escape plan you created earlier and head to the nearest exit.
- Alert others – If you live in a house with multiple people, alert every house member immediately about the fire. Make sure everybody knows which exit to take and evacuates the house safely.
How To Be Prepared For A House Fire Beforehand?
If you live in an area that is prone to fires, it is best to be prepared beforehand. Look at the steps below that you may want to consider to make your home safer.
- Install smoke alarms – Smoke alarms are great devices to detect smoke and identify fires in their early stages. Most modern smoke alarms are highly sensitive to smoke and go off at the slightest sign of smoke. Ensure your entire home is equipped with smoke alarms; this includes hallways, rooms, and the kitchen.
- Create an escape plan – A plan is the most important part of fire preparedness. Create an escape plan with your family and practice it regularly. Identify the safest escape routes, including windows, and designate a meeting place outside the house.
- Educate your loved ones – Teach your family about fire safety, including how to use a fire extinguisher and stop, drop, and roll. This is especially important if you live in an area prone to fires.
- Be careful with flammable items – identify the heat sources in your home; these can be stoves, heaters, and candles. Now make sure that no flammable items are kept close to these sources. These can include items made of paper, cloth, and wood.
- Check your electrical system – Faulty electrical systems often originate from house fires. To avoid this, have a licensed electrician check your electrical system, including the wiring and outlets, to ensure they are safe and up-to-code.
- Install fire-resistant materials – Fire-resistant home installations are readily available but cost more. However, if your house is prone to fires, investing in fire-resistant doors, windows, and roofing materials can be worth it and prevent fires from happening.
- Have a fire extinguisher – Keep it in an easily accessible location and ensure everyone in the household knows how to use it.
- Do not let open flames be – Never leave open flames, such as candles or stovetops, unattended. Keep a close eye on them at all times, or put them out if you are moving away from the area where they are burning.
Putting yourself in challenging situations is never a good idea. When you see a fire, try to escape the area as quickly as possible and take all the safety precautions mentioned in this article.