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Your Home is on Fire—What to Do

The peak months for house fires are December and January, though fires occur every day, year around. A house fire can become life-threatening in just two minutes, experts say. An entire residence can be consumed within five minutes. It’s important that everyone in the house know what to do as soon as they are aware of a fire or smoke. A family emergency plan can save lives. The following are tips from fire experts on what to do in the event of a fire, tips on preventing fires, and how to prepare for the possibility of a fire.

Fire! What do you do?

The following are recommended life-saving steps on what to do if your home is on fire:

  • Feel the doorknob before you open a door. If it’s hot or smoke is coming under the door, keep the door shut and use your second way out.
  • If the doorknob isn’t hot, slowly open it while prepared to shut it quickly, if there is heavy smoke or fire on the escape route.
  • If there is smoke en route to your exit, crawl low to the floor. Heavy smoke and toxic gases collect first along the ceiling.
  • If you were unable to get to someone in the home who needed assistance, go outside and call the fire department or 9-1-1. When  first responders arrive, tell them the location of anyone inside.
  • Tell firefighters immediately, if there are any pets trapped in your home.
  • If you are unable to exit, shut the door and keep smoke out by covering vents and openings around doors with tape or cloth. Call 9-1-1 for help. Stay there and signal for help using a flashlight or light-colored cloth at the window.
  • Stop, drop, and roll, if your clothes are on fire. An alternative is to smother flames with a towel or blanket.

Basic Fire Safety Tips

Maintaining working smoke alarms in the home and practicing fire escape plans are steps that save lives every day. The following are basic fire safety tips, as provided by the Red Cross:

  • Install a smoke alarm on each level of your home, inside each bedroom, and outside sleeping areas.
  • Each month, test smoke alarms. Change the batteries, if they aren’t working.
  • Review the fire escape plan with your family and practice the plan every six months.
  • If a fire occurs in your home, get out, stay out of the home, and call for help. Never go back inside for anyone or anything. (Personally, I’d risk my life to save my loved ones; however, it is recommended not to go back inside.)

Protect Essential Documents

Every fire safety expert agrees that under no circumstances should a person stop to grab a valuable of any kind when their home is on fire. Immediate escape is necessary, since flames spread throughout a house in as little as 5 minutes. This is also why it’s so important to get a fireproof file cabinet or box to protect essential documents, including:

  • Your estate plan
  • Your last will and testament
  • Legal documents related to a trust, living will, healthcare directive, and power of attorney
  • Life insurance policies
  • Birth certificates, social security cards, copies of IDs, contracts, titles, and deeds

Store jewelry, heirlooms, and family photos in a fireproof cabinet or box as well.  Consider backing up photos and your important documents on a flash drive such as the Family Emergency Card to conveniently grab and go in an emergency.  A safe deposit box can be utilized to protect items too.

A Comprehensive Family Emergency Plan

In an emergency such as a house fire, you and your family’s safety is the top priority.  Something to also consider when planning for unexpected emergencies is that the difficulty of recovering from a house fire is often complicated by loss of documentation and details about financial matters.  It’s important to have details on your affairs and digital copies of important documents such as your birth certificate, social security card, medical files, insurance policies, and even family photos kept in one location.   A new tool, called the Family Emergency Card provides a simple and guided way of creating a plan for emergencies.  It’s a flash drive that contains forms created by a Certified Estate & Trust Specialist, to document and store details on your affairs and emergency information.  It’s compact enough to fit in a wallet and easy to grab-and-go in an emergency information. The Family Emergency Card can make a world of difference in being able to start piecing your life back together after a fire or any other serious emergency.

Contributing writer: Stephanie McHugh

About the Editor: Bryan Beeler is a Certified Estate and Trust Specialist

Resources: Ready.gov, Restoration1.com, Redcross.org

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Create a plan for family emergencies

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The Family Emergency Card is a flash drive that contains a workbook to document everything your family will need if something happens to you.  During a crises, families often struggle to find their loved one’s emergency documents, passwords, important contacts, insurance policies, financial accounts, wishes, and other details needed to take care of affairs.  The family emergency card and paperback workbook you can only get here, captures the vital information your family will need if something happens to you.  Simply answer the questions on the forms to create a personalized in-case-of-emergency guide for you and your family.

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The impact of not having affairs in order for emergencies

The impact of not having affairs in order for emergencies

  • Life insurance policies, wills, bank accounts, investment accounts, passwords, contact information, etc., are never found
  • Additional stress, confusion and exhaustion on your family during a crises due to lack of planning
  • Wishes not honored
  • Your financial affairs, children, pets, business, property and other affairs negatively impacted due to not documenting wishes, instructions and other details needed for their care in the event something happens to you

Record everything your family needs to know if something happens to you

Record everything your family needs to know if something happens to you



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  • Compliments your estate plan for complete protection in an emergency
  • Get one for anyone whose affairs you'll have to take care of if something happens to them

How it works

How it works

Simply insert the Family Emergency Card flash drive into the USB port of your computer, open and complete the workbook forms, save a copy of your will, medical directive, insurance policies and other in-case-of-emergency files on it as well.  Store in a safe place or with your attorney.  Comes with step-by-step instructions, including how to password-protect it.

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