Fire Safety 101

I recently read that trauma and phobias can activate parts of our DNA and be passed on. My family’s brand of crazy is specific enough that it could validate that theory.


My mom’s ocd manifested in checking for fire hazards, when I was a kid.

“Is everything unplugged?”

“Did I turn the stove off?”

I can only assume a bit of my fear came from her, as my OCD manifested in a similar way.


Growing up I slept with a backpack on in case of a fire. Every night I packed my Hilary Duff CDs, stuffed animals, a dance trophy. I tied a piece of yarn to my bed frame, prepared to repel down the side of the building from my second story bedroom. When I was 14-years-old I woke up to a two story blaze in my backyard. We were lucky that none of our house or belongings were damaged and everyone was perfectly safe. The fire department was there and put it out within minutes.  


I recently came up with a fire safety plan for my fiancé and I to use in our apartment. I didn’t think we would ever need one.


I was wrong.  



I woke up this weekend to a blaring sound. Within a second I realize it was the fire alarm. When I opened my eyes I jumped into action. I looked at the time, 6:38 a.m. I had only fallen asleep at 6 a.m. I yelled for my fiancé to wake up. I was glad he woke up so quickly. It usually takes a jostling or twelve. I had already planned my escape route and remembered all I knew about fire safety.


I covered my mouth and got dressed quickly. I grabbed my jewelry box with my family heirlooms inside. I checked the front and back doorknobs, no heat. We opened the front door and realized our apartment was the only one smoking. We checked all outlets for heat, nothing. No flames anywhere. We checked the vents. Nothing. We left both our door open to fan out the smoke. Neither of us could figure out where all the smoke was coming from.


We called 911 so the fire department could double check for any flame or electrical fire. Within 4 minutes, 5 firetrucks pulled up in our parking lot. I sat in my car shaking and trying to call my mom, while my fiancé handled it.  


We got the a-okay to go back in, with a recommendation to call our maintenance man. It appeared the coil was dirty. Whatever that means.


Our maintenance man showed up next. He opened up our heating system and found the culprit…


Turns out a bird had flown into our heater and died. It had been singeing in there as the heat kicked on. Disgusting, yes.. but much less dangerous than what could have happened.


It was a reality check of our own fire preparedness. I requized fiancé. If we can, what do we grab? -my baby blanket and childhood doll

-my family jewelry -his laptop.


Where do we meet if separated or if one of us doesn’t have a phone? -the mailbox. How do we check if it’s safe to open a door? -touch the handle What do we do if there’s too much smoke to see? -cover our mouths, bend down and crawl.


We passed the quiz. And in the moment, though scary, we knew what to do.


So how can you be prepared?  


  • Map two or more exits from each room.  
  • Make note of what you’d grab if you have time. Keep it close to your bed if you can, ready to go.
  • Make sure you have a plan of where to meet your family/roommates/etc.
  • Designate a place to go if you don’t have a phone to call 911.
  • Check doorknobs for heat before opening a door.
  • Keep your mouth covered if there’s smoke
  • Crawl if you can’t see through the smoke.
  • Don’t go back in until you’ve been cleared by the fire department.  (It may just be a bird, but it could be much worse.)


For me, being prepared has lessened my anxiety about house fires. I hope it can help you guys too!