Check the batteries in your smoke detectors.
Make sure you’ve got a couple of fire extinguishers in various places in your home, and know where they are.
Check the batteries in your carbon monoxide detector, and if you don’t have one, go get one.
If you have a chimney, be sure to get it professionally cleaned by a chimney sweep before you light a fire. Don’t use those self-cleaning creosote logs–I bought one a year or two ago, but after reading about people who tried using them only to have their houses catch fire, I’m so glad Joe didn’t use it.
Have a plan to exit your home in case of fire–know the exit points from every room.
Have a 72-hour emergency kit, including a change of clothes. Keep it in your car and/or under your bed or another handy spot that you can quickly grab it and go.
Keep your cell phone with you all the time, so that if you need to call 911, you can do so without further jeopardizing your safety. If there are any flames that you can’t quickly and easily put out with a fire extinguisher (or salt or baking soda, for a small grease fire in the kitchen), get yourself and everyone else out of your house while you wait for emergency assistance.
And be sure you’ve got thorough coverage through home owners or renters insurance. You don’t want to first sustain a loss and then find out that you have no insurance coverage.
A house fire is one of those things that you don’t ever associate with something that could happen to you. But it can. Please, please, please, be safe. Trust me when I tell you that you don’t want to have the nightmares I’m living and having.
I can’t tag this “lessons learned the hard way,” because honestly, I think we were pretty well prepared. Joe had the fire extinguishers handy, got the visible flames put out; I called 911 and got myself and the dogs out; we have good coverage with our homeowner’s insurance. When I think how much worse everything could have been, though, I get terrified.