How to avoid a fire

Choose a building with a sprinkler system and fire alarm system.

Make sure you have working smoke detectors in each bedroom and the hallways to those bedrooms, also on each level of a multi-level home.  Vacuum away cobwebs and dust from the detectors monthly.

Smoke detectors become less sensitive over time.  Replace them every 10 years.  When putting new detectors up, write the replacement date on them in permanent marker so you know when to change them again.  Ask your landlord when they were last replaced before you move in.

  • Never leave matches or lighters where children can get them. That means even in cabinets above the refrigerator.
  • Never leave your stove unattended when cooking.
  • When done smoking, dip the cigarette in water and discard in a noncombustible container with a tight lid.  Not in a flower pot!
  • Always turn your portable heaters off when going to bed, and make sure they are at least 18 inches from anything that will burn.
  • Never, ever, heat your home with a stove or oven.
  • Use extension cords as temporary devices, and check them for wear and tear.  Don’t put them under rugs or furniture legs.  Don’t run them out through the doors or windows where they can be pinched.

Always practice fire safe behavior and be a role model for your children. At the first sign of fire curiosity in your child, talk to them about proper use of fire tools.  Fire is NOT a toy.  Contact  Fire Stoppers if you have concerns about the fire curiosity of your child.

How to Prepare Yourself for a Fire

Test your smoke detectors monthly, Practice fire escape drills at least twice a year in the middle of the night.  Teach your children two ways out of each room.  Children do not wake up to smoke detectors.

Think about having two kinds of detectors in your home, both ionization and photoelectric.  U:L testing has determined that you have better coverage with both types rather than just one.  Ionization reacts faster to flaming fires; while photoelectric react faster to smoldering fires.

Test your detectors once a month and be sure to change the batteries when you change your clocks.  Your landlord is only responsible for providing you with the detectors; YOU are responsible for maintaining them.

Have a currently serviced fire extinguisher in your home, easily accessible.  Know how to use it.

When cooking on the stove, stay in the kitchen.  If you have to leave, set a timer for 4 minutes and come back when it goes off.  Have a lid sized for the pan you are using, handy to smother the fire if the oil ignites.  Don’t use water to put out a grease fire, smother it instead.

Practice evacuating your apartment blindfolded; try getting out of the building.  In a real fire situation the amount of smoke generated by a fire will most likely make it impossible to see.

Practice with all your family getting up to the fire alarm, and crawling low under the smoke.  Show your children how to test the door before opening it.  If the door is hot or smoke comes in when you open it, use your other escape route. Practice using alternate escape routes.

If you live in a multi-level building, think about purchasing an escape ladder.  It needs to reach the ground from what ever floor you are on.  Practice using it! Don’t wait until the fire to use it for the first time.

Have a meeting place where all of you can go and wait for the others.  Make sure it’s out of the way of driveways where emergency responders might be arriving.

Keep copies of your important papers in a fire safe.  Copy photos onto disks and keep them is a safe.  Birth Certificates, Marriage certificates, death certificates, vehicle titles, passports, citizenship papers, etc. Copies of credit cards and important bills or bank records can be kept there.  Keep a current record of your medications, so they can be replaced rapidly.    

Renter’s insurance is important.  It’s very affordable and is based on the value of your contents.  If your building burns, the building owner’s insurance will not cover you or your belongings.  Renter’s insurance can also helps with interim housing.   Local Anchorage agents say that renters insurance can be as little as $75 dollars a month.

After the fire

Stay out of damaged buildings.  Return home only when fire officials or other officials say it’s safe.

The American Red Cross can help you with notifying family and friends, finding a place to stay for a few days, and with emergency clothing and medicines.

Once the Fire Department turns the building over to the owner or the representative, they will advise you when it’s safe to return.  Usually that won’t occur until the building has been evaluated by an Insurance Company and Building safety engineers.

If they allow you into the building, make sure you follow their instructions about hard hats and safety.

Contact your insurance representative