U.S. Fire Administration — Working for a Fire-Safe AmericaU.S. Fire Administration — Working for a Fire-Safe America

The Dangers of Smoke

Follow these steps to protect yourself and your family from home fire smoke.


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BE aware of smoke.

Did you know that smoke is poisonous and kills more people in home fires than flames do?

The most common poison in smoke is carbon monoxide (CO). CO can make you feel disoriented, unable to remember where you are or how to get out of your home.

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KNOW there is little time to escape from a home fire.

Thick black smoke can fill your home in just a few minutes and make the inside of your home completely dark.

Protect yourself and your family from a home fire and its dangerous smoke.

diagram showing where to put smoke alarms in a home

DO install smoke alarms.

In every sleeping room.

Outside each separate sleeping area.

On every level of your home.

fire escape plan diagram

DO make a home fire escape plan.

Know 2 ways out of every room and have a clear path to your exits.

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DO practice your home fire escape plan.

Do this with every member of your home at least 2 times every year.

If you have a fire...

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If you see smoke or when the smoke alarm sounds, get out of your home right way.

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Get low to the ground and go under the smoke to your exit.

Get out and stay out. Don't go back for people, pets or things.

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Go to your outside meeting place and call 911.

If you live in an apartment building...

animated graphic showing a woman feeling doors to see which is cool before escaping a building

Feel your door before opening. If it is cool, open and close the door behind you. Leave by the nearest exit.

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Pull the fire alarm on your way out.

graphic indicating the stairs should be used instead of the elevator

Use the stairs, not the elevator, to leave the building.

family at their designated meeting place

Go to your outside meeting place and call 911.

If you can't escape from a fire...

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Stuff wet towels or sheets around the door and vents to keep smoke out.

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Call 911 and tell them where you are.

boy at window with a towel outside of it

Open a window slightly and place a bright cloth outside to signal your location. Close the window so the air does not pull smoke into the room.

For more information

If you need help:


Making a home fire escape plan

Watch this video and use this fire escape grid to make a plan.

Getting and installing smoke alarms

Call your fire department or local American Red Cross chapter for potential assistance in your area.

Recovering from a home fire

Our free booklet can help you with what to do during the first 24 hours, insurance considerations, valuing property, replacing documents and salvage hints.

Step up for fire safety!

Visit usfa.fema.gov for home fire prevention and safety tips.

U.S. Fire Administration