Fire Drill - What do you grab?

Emily H
5 years ago
No one wants to think about the possibility that they may have a house fire, and hopefully we are all prepared and have some kind of plan in place, but those first moments must be incredibly scary. Faced with a sudden fire and limited time, what do you take from the house?

Share your experience! (Photos encouraged)

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Comments (61)

  • adivra
    Just get the people and pets outs. How does a person decide at that moment what's important?
    Emily H thanked adivra
  • condomary
    2 cats. I have all important paper, some cash, spare keys and a bank card in a SentrySafe file cabinet which is waterproof and fire rated 1700*.
    Emily H thanked condomary
  • Curt D'Onofrio
    We have no pets. Everything in our house, when one really thinks about is JUST STUFF, i.e. can easily be replaced. My lady clo and me have a differences of opinion, but still...trying to save her will still be my first priority :)))
    Emily H thanked Curt D'Onofrio
  • Curt D'Onofrio
    I learned years ago what is truely important to me. Recently, i heard on news that in one house fire someone actually ran back inside to try to save the TV. How pathetic is that ???
    Emily H thanked Curt D'Onofrio
  • zukpr
    Scan important papers, email the scanned document to yourself, then save it in a file in your email. Never, ever go back in for " stuff". Our fire was in 1990. Everybody, two legged and four legged, got out. Thank God.
    Emily H thanked zukpr
  • kathleen MK
    We lost an elderly man who ran back into his burning house for a cell phone to call 911. I'd risk my life for my family and maybe get singed trying to save my dad's paintings.
    Emily H thanked kathleen MK
  • whattahouse
    This is what household fire drills are for: so you can prepare both mentally and physically for a fire or other disaster. Think of the P's: people, pets, pc's, prescriptions, photos, papers. You should always have a small disaster kit packed up in the first place. As for papers: you can and should scan your insurance policies (all of them) and photos of your house and belongings, and pet papers and save them on a thumb drive or DVD and store that offsite (safe deposit box?).

    For your pets get a small roller bag and pack a couple days of pet food + an extra leash and/or harness and collar, a collapsible bowl, plus an extra copy of your pet(s)' vaccination records and a towel or blanket - pets will need your scent in a new place. If you had to stay at a hotel with your pets for that 1st night you will need proof of vaccination. If you have a cat included a small bag of litter and a disposable litter box (they fit). Set your cat carrier out often even if you are not going anywhere so that your cat will get used to it and not freak out & hide when you get it out in an emergency.

    Keep your emergency stuff in one spot. Figure out your paths of escape and go over them with your household annually. Make sure everyone understands them. Conduct a fire drill and later refresh it mentally so that when you are caught off guard you still have some presence of mind. Nothing beats being ready. Get your kids involved and set up a check in point elsewhere (friends or neighbors). You will feel better knowing you have done all you can to be ready. And, if you are lucky enough to have great neighbors, give them a key and all of your contact info and coordinate with them in case your house is ok but you just can't get home or aren't allowed into the area by authorities.

    Been thru this - it is not fun but being prepared makes all the difference. If you don't know how to prepare, call your local fire department for a trainer course. And lastly ( my soapbox!): PLEASE - even if you are a renter get after your landlord - trim your trees, remove dead growth, keep shrubbery next to the house low and away from the walls, and keep it clean! :).
    Emily H thanked whattahouse
  • Jolene
    2 children and 2 dogs are first on the list. If time after that maybe a few family photos or art from the children.
    Emily H thanked Jolene
  • Katherine Huit
    Lessons learned: After loosing our home last November while out of state attending the memorial service for my husband's father, I've learned that you can plan for the day it happens but if you are not there to remove the stuff it is all moot. We lost everything, including our two fish tanks and a loving orange tabby cat. We had a plan - in fact we'd just reorganized so that the most important items were near doors; however, by the time we learned about the fire and notified people that could help remove stuff, it was too late.
    Emily H thanked Katherine Huit
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    Emily H thanked DSC DesignWorks
  • diatom
    Forget it. You have no ability to gauge the rapidly escalating lethal threat of a fire. Grab the kids & get out, phone 911 from neighbor's house. Do not re-enter. (Have your mate time you next time you run into the house from the car to retrieve the phone/keys/address/coffe you left behind - three minutes? You don't have three minutes. Fires do more than burn: they suffocate by gobbling oxygen; they poison by pyrolyzing plastics. You'll die if you think twice.

    Meanwhile: Get a Scansnap & Evernote. Scan everything; copy is in the cloud. Take photos of everything else, do likewise. Main photo archive? Cloud backup. Rest of the stuff? It's history.
  • Curt D'Onofrio
    Keep important paper things off site(stocks, bonds, will's) in a safety deposit box.
  • puppyfur
    After reading these comments it's clear that most people have no idea how dangerous a house fire is. The only priority is to get yourselves out of the house. Even if you think you have time to grab things, etc, you likely do not. Have a look online at any fire department training video to see how fast a house fire can move. The smoke will obscure your view very rapidly, and it dampens sound as well, so you cannot see, hear, or breathe. You become disoriented in your own house and have no idea where you are. Many experienced firefighters who are trained to survive these situations never make it out alive. Have a primary and alternate escape route plan and drill it with your family annually, and if the worst happens, just get out!
  • Owen Malbec
    There is no way to think clearly about what to grab when the house is on fire. The ONLY sage thing to do is to prepare ahead of time. It's second nature to grab everyday things like your wallet, keys or phone, but if you think you'll remember your checklist and start opening a safe, disconnecting a hard drive or start pulling items out of your curio, it's not going to happen. GET OUT.

    Given that you will have so little time and could lose so much, why not take the ounce of precaution it takes? Explore and see what it has to offer. It fits in your wallet and keeps ALL of your information at the ready, safely. We invented this to be convenient, inexpensive and secure. Please help spread the word! Nobody's life should ever be endangered over a few possessions or files.
  • PRO
    Rustic Artistry
    My husband, who is a firefighter, is also an avid hunter. His instructions are to grab the deer heads and get out! Don't tell him but I will be grabbing my sweet kitty and running.
  • Jessica Kerry Mack
    There is a story in my family. When my grandfather was a small child, the youngest of 9 children in the family, there was a fire at their farm house. Since they lived far out in the country and the fire dept. still used horse drawn engines - my great grandfather knew it was not going to be put out in time. He got the whole family out into the yard, and since it was a cold winter night in North West Pennsylvania, he turned around went back in and grabbed all the blankets from the beds closest to the exit. Thank goodness he did! My grandfather - groggy and not fully awake had - unbeknownst to everyone in the hubub - gone back into the house and gone to bed. He was scooped up with the blankets and was discovered when Great Grandpa started distributing them to keep everyone warm. If Great Grandpa hadn't gone back in for the blankets, I wouldn't be here today.
  • islayscot
    Our photos, including the old family photos, have all been scanned and placed on a thumb drive, a CD and an external back-up hard drive. The thumb drive, CD and all old negatives are stored in a safety deposit box. Once you save your family, the only thing people in a fire regret losing is the photos. Now, we can easily have copies made.

    When our neighbor in an old apartment had a fire, I grabbed the quilt, my husband and nothing else - everything else was replaceable, but we were blessed, The fire department did a great job and no damage was done to our apartment.
  • Jessica Kerry Mack
    About 3 years ago, the house behind mine caught fire. I was home when someone came pounding and screaming to my front door. I almost didn't recognize my neighbor in her night-clothes with her hair in complete disarray. She asked me to call the fire department, which I did. In less than 5 minutes it took me to make the call, the fire had expanded from the basement of the home where it started in an electrical socket to having flames shooting out of the roof of the two story building. Everyone got out safely and the fire department arrived within about 15 minutes and got it put out. They had to gut the whole house and rebuild the interior. The siding had all melted off and had to be replaced. I was amazed at how much damage had occurred in just that short amount of time. Additionally most of their belongings were either burned or severely fire and smoke damaged and had to be replaced.

    I tried to find the photos on the Prince George's County Fire Dept. blog but apparently that fire was not one they'd photographed. Here's a photo showing what the siding looked like although this is a different house.
  • PRO
    Change of Art®
    How about a hurricane or tornado drill? Typically, you get advance warning and can take a minute or two to gather your most treasured 'things'. I agree that a fire is way too dangerous to think about anything other than your and family's safety. (Evacuating quickly also helps the fire department – and you wouldn't want to put them at any more risk than necessary.)
  • Mike & Jeanne Beckman
    We were in this situation months ago; then subsequently had to evacuate because of possible mud slides, which are a threat for the next 3-5 years. Most important is the safety of your family and animals. We've made a list in preferential order, and have laundry baskets at the ready. Important papers such as passports are kept offsite. Fire moves INCREDIBLY fast.
  • PRO
    SoCal Contractor
    Save your family and pets, don't risk for anything else. Looking at your picture album with scars all over your body, you'd wish you let it burn.
    I know it's dramatic, but I have been through a short fire fighting training where I work, there are things about a house fire you don't know, it may look safe but it's not.
  • Jessica Kerry Mack
    My mother always warned us girls to NEVER EVER hide under the bed in case of a fire when I was small. Two of my grandmother's cousins were killed in a fire because they did that after an oil lamp started a fire. The cellar was all that was left of that house and when we would go visit that branch of the family my mother would take us out to that cellar in the front yard and point at it and tell us the story of the little girls who hid under the bed instead of going out a window or any other way they could have. Photo from the internet to show what the cellar looked like...
  • cocoanlace
    An Explorer exploded in a garage & caused a fire in our building. The fire quickly took out the electricity/phone lines and many were left in darkness. Lessons I learned: I wasted time dialing the fire department. Don't. Let others in nearby buildings call (several will). Grab the pets. Some of mine ran from me in panic (smoke smell/fire engine sirens). Those you cannot catch, you must leave. But also leave the doors open so they can escape on their own. Keep several large pillow cases available to stick cats or small dogs into. You can carry them outside in them and being covered helps keep them calm (they can breathe in them). Taking material things never even crossed my mind.
  • PRO
    Change of Art®
    Your note about the pillow case may very well save some beloved pets -- thank you for sharing this!
  • PRO
    Change of Art®
    The open doors, too. So smart.
  • PRO
    Change of Art®
    P.S. I can tell that you and your family are safe. I hope your home was OK.
  • nkeunen
    In order of importance: Kids, Dogs, Computer (only care about the pictures on it). Those are the only things that are not replaceable. If I have time add wallet/purse and cell phones I guess.
  • amjbauman
    My son
  • bungalowmo
    My cats, my purse & keys for the car/truck & my cell phone. If there is mother's jewelry. Irreplaceable.
  • thickskin
    I am an ex-pat. My American passport, then my dog.
  • PRO
    Sustainable Dwellings
    You don't have time in most cases to grab anything but yourself....
  • PRO
    Julia & Elizabeth
    A wild fire in California was headed toward our house and I had to think about what to take. It's amazing how little you care about the sofa you spent days agonizing over the fabric for. I just wanted photos, family heirlooms, and anything with sentimental value.
  • valerieplevier
    Prevention is key. When there is a fire it can be in the middle of the night so you won't have time to think. Install fire alarms on all floors and check them regularly. Get the people and pets out, the rest can burn. I keep a rope in my bedroom in case the fire is so bad that I can only get out through the window. I am no superman and don't want to break a leg so the rope may help save my life. If you can afford it and if you have room get a fire resistant safe where you store you most valuable paperwork that cannot be replaced. These days you can virtually file all photos and docs in a cloud so you can save those & retrieve all when you get a new pc. I also keep my handbag in my bedroom at night so that if I need to exit I can always throw it out through the window. And get a good for new insurance. Material things are not worth agonizing over so just save your family and pets and get out of there.
  • onthecoast1
    What would I grab? MY DOG and any cash nearby. Hands down, I do not leave unless my dog leaves with me. I am not a sentimental person and have given all the old family photos and home movies to my grown children. I'm not attached to any physical item either. My insurance papers are with my parents' fireproofed files at their house. So it's just me and the dog. :-) Hubby would grab a rifle he is attached to that was his grandfather's.
  • speckledcat
    We love our pets, but I'm not going to risk dying trying to rescue them because my family needs me more than I need my pets.
  • tcv322
    My kids are gone and I don't have pets, so the one thing I would grab would be all the family picture.
  • juliep412
    When the house next door to us burned down 2 years ago, all I grabbed was my kid, my purse (wallet, credit cards, etc are in there) and my laptop. I'm a scrapbooker but I figured my photos are in my computer so I can remake my albums if I have to and our important papers and info are saved on my computer (as well as backed up in other places). In a stressful situation like that, you don't have time, nor will you think about, running around the house gathering up family photos and other stuff. I was also 2 days post-back surgery so I did also grab my pain meds.
  • Robbi
    Wildfires are a regular occurrence in So Cal, so I was prepared to evacuate a few times, but was hopeful my house wouldn't burn so I just had a few practical things ready for a night or two in a hotel including a few things for my dog. If the house was actually burning I would just focus on getting making sure my husband and I were out and get our dog. I was in a high rise apartment fire once when I lived back east, the floor below me was on fire and the hall was full of smoke. I signaled out the window to the firefighters that I was there, put on my coat since it was winter and grabbed my purse while I was waiting to be rescued (so I could have ID and car keys) and couldn't have cared less about anything else. When your life is in danger, material possessions lose all meaning. Luckily, the firefighters came and got me out. I couldn't get back in the building that night so I was glad I had my coat and could get in my car to go to a relative's house that night. After that experience, I wouldn't waste time looking for valuables if my house was burning, if I smell smoke I just want to get me and my loved ones out, nothing else is worth risking your life over.
  • Owen Malbec
    It really is a topic that nobody wants to think about until it's too late. Please help us get the word out that you really can take preparatory steps!
  • Cyndy
    If there was time, I'd grab my purse--if not, I'd only get my dog out (wrapped in my protecting arms).
  • Susan DeVenuto Strasner
    We had a fire many years ago and we had to get out, I grabbed my purse. I was happy because I had my car keys and wallet because I had to drive to a friends to stay and stopped for a toothbrush on the way. In all honesty I was not concerned about ANYTHING except getting out. Now my dogs are #1, My purse is usually on the way out the door so hopefully I could grab it.
  • Susan DeVenuto Strasner
    Just to add to the above, I have dog leashes in my bedroom just incase. One of my dogs is 70lb and hides from everything under the bed so if i need to drag him out i can do it easier. There are also folding ladders that you can buy at Walmart for under $100 to keep on your 2nd floor.
  • Squapple
    My two children and dog. You would be too frantic to look grab and look after anything else. Life is precious.
  • hebatalla1987
    My family, my holy book, important papers, my and my mother gold jewelries in order of course if there is time.
  • Bonnie
    my pets
  • J J
    Get out, there is no way of knowing how much time you have. Every second counts . I have survived a house fire and never once did I think of my stuff. I have monthly fire drills and annual emergency evacuation drills for other types of situations.
  • PRO
    JudyG Designs
    My cell phone.
  • beverlynn
    First of all, I pray that I NEVER experience a fire! if it's in the middle of the night, I'll grab my purse and get the heck out!
  • PRO
    Brown Safe Manufacturing, Inc.
    Keep important things in a fire safe, get your pets and loved ones and get out!
  • PRO
    VT Industries
    Family member and pets!

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