A fire can be even more devastating to your family than a burglary. Getting an early warning and knowing how to respond can save lives. According to the National Fire Protection association, more than 1,000 people are killed every year in the U.S. alone, and thousands more are injured in electrical shock and burn accidents-many of them preventable. Of course, adequately protecting your house against these dangers is the best idea.

Develop a Family Fire Plan

    Don't waste precious time and possibly risk your life trying to put out a major fire with an extinguisher. Instead, immediately evacuate everyone from the house and call the fire department from a neighbor's home. To make sure very family member knows hoe to get out quickly and safely, prepare and rehearse fire emergency plan. Here's what it should include.

  • Identify escape routes. Draw up a floor plan of your home and earmark at least two exits from every room. Doors, of course, are primary exits from every room, but if fire or smoke blocks them, consider windows as secondary escape routes. All windows can't be opened, use a shoe or chair to break the glass and clear away jagged edges. you can also throw a blanket over the sill to protect against cuts. Post your escape plan where baby-sitters and guests can see it.
  • Pay special attention to upper-floor windows. If some have access to porch roofs, find out if it's safe to use them. For other high windows, position non combustible chain ladders.
  • Provide for elderly people and small Children. Assign someone to help them out.
  • Agree on a meeting place. Pick a site outside, such as a tree in the front yard, where you will all gather after an evacuation.This way you will know if the house is vacant or if anyone is still inside. If someone is missing, don't attempt a rescue yourself; fire fighters are equipped and trained for this job.
  • Hold fire drills. Make some practice runs at night, so everyone knows exactly what to do and where to rendezvous. If you have a chain ladder, make sure everyone knows how to use it.
  • Close bedroom doors at night. Most fatal home fires begin in rooms other than the bedroom. Fire produces deadly heated gases and smoke that can kill long before the flames reach a person. If a fire occurs in another part of the house, a closed door will keep out gases, smoke, and heat for some time. And, if a fire should start inside a bedroom, a closed door can retard its spread to other rooms.
  • If you smell smoke, don't rush into a hallway. Instead, drop to your hands and knees, crawl to the door, and put the back of your hand against the closed door. If the door feels cool, brace it with your shoulder (rapidly expanding gases can push it open), cautiously open it, and move your hand across the opening to determine how hot the air is; if it feels cool and flames or smoke aren't pouring up a stairway, you may be able to use this means of escape. But if the door feels warm, don't open it. Instead, use your secondary escape route.