While planning and preparing can’t stop emergencies from happening, having the supplies you need and some sense of direction can keep you and your family safer during a catastrophe. This is certainly the case for home fires, according to Michael Kozo, New York City Fire Department (FDNY) captain and commanding officer of the FDNY’s Fire Safety Education Unit.
Home fire safety “isn’t as simple as having a ‘go bag,’” Kozo told HuffPost. “We’re talking a little bit more about preparedness in terms of fire safety education. It’s all about having an escape plan in your home. Have everybody in your home sit down together and go over an escape plan. Then you practice it.”
Per Kozo, the number one way to be prepared for a home fire is to have working, regularly tested smoke alarms in every room of your house. He recommends checking the batteries once a month as well as brushing them off to make sure dust doesn’t get stuck in them.
With the rise in wildfires, it feels remiss to discuss home fire preparedness without looking into wildfire safety. Jon Heggie, battalion chief at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) defines home wildfire preparedness as “having all the things readily available if you are asked to evacuate.”
While this can mean an already packed to-go bag containing things like extra clothes, food, water and medication, Heggie says it’s also helpful to just keep a running list of where your important documents and sentimental items are around the house.
“We don’t want people to live in a constant state of fear and being packed, ready to go,” Heggie said. “But having that, you know — insurance papers, hall closet. Pictures, pick ’em up here. Know where those items are throughout your house to be able to grab and go at a moment’s notice.”
Whether you’re preparing a to-go bag or just want to equip your house the best you can for a fire, the experts break down the things you need to be prepared in the event of a blaze.
HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Every item is independently selected by the HuffPost Shopping team. Prices and availability are subject to change.
Working smoke alarms in every room
"The number one thing where we can all start with being prepared in our home for fire is smoke alarms," Kozo said. "There are quite a few statistics out there that say that having and maintaining working smoke alarms reduces your chances of dying in a fire by 50%. The number one thing we advocate and insist is that people have working smoke alarms in every room."
After installing a fire alarm in every room of your home, Kozo recommends testing each alarm once a month. "You still have to test it monthly, make sure that it's working properly, make sure that there's no dust in there," he said.
This 120-volt AC smoke detector comes with a 9-volt battery and a 10-year warranty. You can purchase a single alarm or a pack of three, six or 12.
Carbon monoxide alarm
In addition to smoke alarms, Kozo urges you to have a carbon monoxide alarm on every level of your home.
"Install carbon monoxide alarms to alert your family to this invisible, odorless, colorless gas before it’s too late," Krista Farley Raines
, regional communications director for American Red Cross Central Appalachia Region, told HuffPost. "A small amount of carbon monoxide can poison or kill a person if it is breathed in over a long period of time — such as overnight while sleeping."
This carbon monoxide alarm lasts up to five years and uses a 9-volt battery.
"If you have battery-powered smoke alarms, replace the batteries at least once a year," Farley Raines said. "Check the batteries when the time changes from standard to daylight saving each spring and then back again in the fall."
Many smoke and carbon monoxide detectors (like the two we listed) use 9-volt batteries; this two-pack from Energizer has a five-year shelf life.
Firefighter rescue alert stickers
During a fire, you may not have time to clearly communicate who else is in your home. Farley Raines says putting firefighter rescue alert stickers on your outside windows and doors can instruct the team on who may still need to be rescued. "Firefighter rescue alert stickers placed on windows help firefighters locate children, the elderly, disabled residents and pets," she said.
This fire rescue alert is a matte vinyl sticker that comes in five sizes.
Have two home fire extinguishers
Kozo advises keeping two home fire extinguishers — one by the kitchen in the event of a small kitchen fire and one in your bedroom if there's a fire near where you or your family is sleeping. However, he's explicit when he says a home fire extinguisher is a tool to help you safely exit your home — not completely put out a house fire.
"We don't recommend you try to act as a firefighter and put out this huge fire," Kozo said. "After about 45 seconds or so, the fire's gonna be beyond your control. That extinguisher, you'll be able to knock down just enough fire where you'll be able to get out safe or maybe get to your children's bedroom or something like that."
Fire escape ladders
"Fire escape ladders provide a simple, easy-to-store way to help ensure that you and your family get out safely in the event of a house fire," Farley Raines said. "If you live in a two- or three-story home, you should have one ladder in every occupied room on floors above the main level."
This tangle-free fire ladder measures 13 feet and can hold up to 1,000 pounds.
A fireproof safe for your valuables
When a fire emergency strikes, you don't have time to collect your valuables from different drawers. To give you peace of mind and to help you leave the building as quickly as possible, Farley Raines recommends storing important items in a fire-proof safe that can be recovered after the fire is put out. Instead of having one more thing to look for, grab and take with you out of the burning house, you can make sure you and your family are safe, knowing your jewelry and old photos will be protected as well.
This safety box is fireproof and waterproof; it can hold letter and A4 size documents lying down.
Fireproof and water-resistant file folder
When it comes to fire preparedness, Heggie says you want to think about the P's: papers, prescriptions, plastic (meaning credit cards or cash) and pets. This portable, expandable fireproof and water-resistant file can contain and organize all your important papers and files. It can store spare cash and credit cards as well.
Waterproof and moisture-proof pill organizer
Keep your prescriptions ready and protected with this waterproof and moisture-proof pill organizer. It has slots for every day of the week and a carrying handle, so it's easy to grab quickly.
Supplies for your pet
Heggie urges you to keep food and water for your human family in your to-go bag. He also recommends packing everything your pet may need, like their food and medications or an extra leash. This is a set of two collapsible food and water bowls that stack easily and make an instant space for your pet to eat and drink on the go.
As Heggie says, every family's to-go bag will look different. Still, he shares that a first-aid kit is something all families will be glad to have. This one contains everything from bandages to ibuprofen tablets.
A bag of toiletries
In addition to first-aid supplies, Heggie says you'll want to have some toiletries for you and your family. Rather than running around the house finding things in the moment, this kit has everything you need including deodorant, toothpaste and a razor.
Waterproof flashlights and batteries
Per Heggie, flashlights are useful in any sort of emergency, especially if a fire happens at night. This set comes with two high-powered, waterproof flashlights. Heggie says to make sure you have extra batteries
for the flashlights and other devices you may need.