7 steps to protect your family in case of fireTwo weeks ago, the unthinkable happened to dear friends of ours.

Their house burned down and they are absolutely heartbroken. The aftermath of a fire is overwhelming.

Some of the things they have shared post-fire are important for all of us to know.

With those in mind, here are seven proactive steps we can take in case of fire.

Clean out your dryer ductwork.

Our friends’ fire was caused by lint in the dryer ductwork. Most of us are good about cleaning out the lint filter in the dryer itself (if you aren’t good about doing that AFTER EACH LOAD, you need to be!). However, most of us don’t even think to clean out the ductwork that vents from the back of the dryer to the outside. One of the biggest clues that your dryer vent needs to be cleaned is that it’s taking longer than usual for your clothes to dry. Need to know how to clean out your dryer exhaust vent? Here’s a tutorial.

Don’t leave the dryer running if you leave the house.

Early detection of a fire can make a huge difference between catching a fire early and putting it out or experiencing a total loss of your home. Our friend had smelled something hot but couldn’t find anything burning so she determined the smoke smell must have been coming from the outside. She then left the house to make a quick trip to the store. The house was engulfed in flames when she got back home a few minutes later.

Know the difference between a smoke detector and a fire detector.

Both kinds of detectors are sold and many of us don’t know there’s a difference. Fire detectors are heat detectors. They have less false alarms but they take much longer to alert you. Smoke alarms detect and send off an alarm sooner when smoke is present. Our daughter and her husband learned this lesson in a scary way. One night she left something to cook overnight and it didn’t have enough water in it. She woke up in the middle of the night to the smell of smoke. In fact the house was so filled with smoke she couldn’t hardly see to walk through the living room. None of the smoke detectors went off in the house! When they tried to figure out why, they discovered they didn’t have smoke alarms at all. They had heat detector alarms. Had Anne not awakened when she did they could have all been overcome with smoke inhalation. Make sure you have smoke alarms in your home. Fire detectors are fine, but not without having smoke alarms, too.

Change your batteries on your smoke alarms.

You should change the batteries at least once a year. Some people do that on January 1 each year. Others choose to do it twice a year and they time it with the spring and fall time change. Regardless of what routine you choose, put the task on your calendar and make sure it happens!

Inventory your home.

Should you have a fire, you’ll need to know what you in order to have insurance replace it. One of the best ways to do that is to do a video of each room of your home (and then store that video in cloud storage somewhere!). However, don’t just video the room. Make sure you open drawers and cabinets and furniture nooks where your possessions are tucked away. As my friend Barb says, “You need to know what you have all the way down to the cotton balls.” Barb used to work for an insurance company. She said that all your big items are depreciated so the cost to replace them might not be what you get from the insurance company. You’ll need to list every little possession you own to sometimes help you replace the big items in a fire.

Identify a meeting place for your family.

Should a fire break out in the home, make sure your family knows where they are to meet outside the home. You might even practice a fire drill with everyone exiting the home and heading straight to the meeting place. The kids may think it’s silly to do so, but in the rare event a fire happens, you’ll be glad you did.

Make sure you have a fire extinguisher on every level of your home.

If you catch a fire early, a fire extinguisher can make a big difference in putting it out. Make sure you have one visible and available on each level of your home.

What about you? Would you add anything to this list of fire prevention?