Fires are unpredictable, but your survival doesn't have to be.

It can happen to anyone. It can happen anytime. Millions of fires are reported across the world every year.

In the United States alone, a house fire breaks out roughly every minute on average. But life-saving decisions are made within seconds.

So how can you buy yourself more time? Do you know all your options? If you don’t have a plan, then get out a pen.

The main causes of housefires are all preventable. For the most part, we’re simply not paying attention. We’re either distracted, or we’re just not being careful.

An unattended stove, a lit cigarette, a faulty appliance. We’ve all had a few close calls; burned into our memory, never to be repeated.

But have you really learned your lesson? Fires are often unpredictable, but your survival doesn’t have to be.

1. Be prepared

There’s stress, there’s confusion, there’s a lot of heat, but no matter what, you’ve gotta stay cool. And the best way to do that is knowing what to do. Plan a few escape routes and get familiar with them. It’s always nice to have a few options that can get you out calmly, quickly, and safely.

2. Cover your nose and mouth

Your room, or your home, will start filling up with smoke very quickly, and chances are, you’re going to have to pass through it in order to get out. Breathing in too much smoke can cause you to pass out. But you can fight back by wetting a cloth and holding it over your nose and mouth.

3. Stay low to the ground

Covering your nose and mouth might only buy you a few extra minutes, but in life and death, every second counts.
And while smoke may be a greater threat than the fire itself, it also rises. So on top of protecting your nose and mouth, you can improve your chances by getting on your hands and knees, and crawling your way towards an exit.

4. Check every door

In a house fire, a closed door can either save you or stop you in your tracks. As you pass from one room to another, remember to close doors behind you to help prevent the fire from spreading any faster. Fires need oxygen to survive, so by closing doors, you’re cutting off the free flow of oxygen between rooms.

By the same token, be careful when you open doors ahead of you. Look for any smoke that might be coming through the cracks, and feel the door itself for heat. You don’t want to open it if there’s a fire raging on the other side. If the door feels okay, then open it just a crack, to make sure. If the room’s clear, move ahead, but stay alert.

5. Stop, drop, and roll

It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. Yes, firefighters still stand by this mantra. If your clothes ever catch fire, rolling back and forth will smother the flames, so you can get back on track.

6. Once you’re out, stay out

You escape your burning home, and reach a safe distance away when, oh no! Your passport! Your cat! Your family photos! Your priceless stamp collection! Whatever it is, don’t go back inside. For anything. You were lucky to get out safely; you might not be so lucky a second time. Put your safety first, and leave the rest to the professionals.

Of course, all fires are unique, and there’s no guarantee that they’ll play out in the way we just outlined. So if you’re still in doubt, refer back to step one: be prepared. Test your smoke alarms regularly, invest in a few fire extinguishers, and get some rope ladders for the upper levels of your home.

And if you’re ever in a situation where you’re really trapped, a good tip is to block as much smoke from getting into your room, and then hanging some kind of visible fabric like a towel or a bed sheet from your window. This will signal your location to the firefighters when they show up, and they’ll be able to get to you much faster.

So how do you feel now? A little safer?