The Biggest Threat to You and Your Family

In a typical year, fires kill more Americans than all other disasters combined (including tornadoes, floods, and hurricanes).

According to the American Red Cross, fewer than a third of American families have a fire plan in place. But every home is a fire disaster waiting to happen... The two biggest causes of a fire in the home are from cooking appliances and heaters. Once a fire starts, you could be dead within minutes.

A fire at your home is the No. 1 threat to your family's physical well-being.

As children, we're taught to "stop, drop, and roll"... But that's where most fire-safety training ends. We're never given more detailed knowledge.

Today, we want to change that. Knowing the facts below will increase your chances of surviving a fire...

First, make sure your smoke detectors are functioning. It's common knowledge that you should have them, but you also want to make sure they're ready in a crisis. I check mine on a quarterly basis. Put in earplugs and press the button on the detector until it sounds.

In a fire, smoke inhalation is most likely to kill you, not the flames. That's why it's vital to have functioning smoke detectors in your home.

If the smoke detectors go off in the middle of the night, do not bolt up out of bed. In a smoky room, this will bring your nose and mouth right into the thick of the smoke. Inhaling will fill your lungs with scalding, toxic smoke.

When a smoke alarm goes off, roll out of bed, then crawl on your hands and knees to escape. Practice this maneuver with your family so it becomes instinctive, even when you're half-awake.

On average, you've got about 60 seconds to escape exposure to noxious smoke before dying. Devise a comprehensive fire-evacuation plan and practice it. Make sure everyone knows the routes and the meet-up location. If you have to stop and think it through, you won't have time to escape.

You can increase your survivability by donning what is known as a "full-face respirator"...

It's a device similar to a gas mask. Depending on the model, you can get 15 to 30 minutes of breathable air by wearing a respirator mask. You can get a good respirator for about $40 on Amazon.

Don't let the respirator make you complacent, though. You may have up to 30 minutes of breathable air, but fires grow exponentially. A fire can double in size every 90 seconds.

Flashover – when flammable gas in a room spontaneously combusts – happens five to eight minutes after the fire starts. Flashover ignites everything in the room. This environment no longer sustains human life. Don't delay... get out before flashover.

Your local fire station can also give you advice on valuable fire-safety precautions.

Also, don't forget about fire safety on vacation... Every time you check into a hotel, locate the stairs and take them one time. It's good exercise, and it plants in your mind where to go in an emergency. If the fire alarm goes off, you'll know what to do without giving it a second thought.

Another important fire-safety tool is a fire extinguisher. It can snuff out a fire before it has a chance to get more dangerous. But while people generally know to have one around, they often use them wrong... They aim the extinguisher's flow at the flames themselves.

This is a pointless waste of extinguishing agent... and you'll only get about 10 seconds of flow from a fully charged extinguisher.

Here's what you really need to do: Aim the flow at the base of the flames. You extinguish the fire by removing or dampening the fuel that is burning. Spray the base in a horizontal sweeping motion.

Remember the acronym P.A.S.S. for effective extinguisher use:

  • Pull the safety pin.
  • Aim the nozzle at the base of the flames.
  • Squeeze the handle slowly to discharge the agent.
  • Sweep side to side.

Finally, talk to your family about what to do in case of a fire. Discuss escapes routes, tell children the safest ways to get out in case of a fire, and practice. Fire drills aren't just for grade school.

If you live in a high-rise building, talk to the building management about the plan for residents in case of a fire. And ask about the fire-safety features of the building, including the sprinkler system and fire exits.

And wherever you live, check your smoke detectors at least twice a year.

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
April 20, 2023