The Home Fire and Disaster Safety Quiz


By: Torrance Grey

6 Min Quiz

Image: Rafael Ben-Ari/Photodisc/Getty Images

About This Quiz

It's true - we've all seen Armageddons-that-weren't. The great Y2K scare comes to mind, as well as the Mayan end-of-the-world in 2012, and the Harmonic Convergence (wait, that was something else). The point is, you might feel burned by the doomsday prepping you've done, unnecessarily, in years past. 

Don't throw out all that canned food just yet, though! Big crises do happen, only usually on a local, not national or global, scale. (The California wildfires of late 2018 are a clear reminder of that). And the fact is, the first line of defense in an emergency is you, your household, and your immediate neighbors. Are you up-to-date on your fire safety, first-aid and evacuation skills? It's a question well worth asking!

We've got a quiz to help you answer that question. We hope you'll learn a few things, and maybe even check out resources in your community for further education. Your local fire station is a great place to start. Many hold "CERT" classes, which stands for "Community Emergency Response Team." These courses will teach you how to become "civilian first responders" in a time of crisis if that's something you're interested in. If not, you'll still come away with a much better idea of how to take care of yourself in a time of natural disaster, which will take some strain off your town or city's official first responders. A win-win!

What does "CPR" stand for?

CPR is a crucial first-aid, and one that nearly anyone can learn. Check an adult-education or community-education schedule in your area for classes, which usually only last about two hours.


Which of these is generally considered a first step in preparedness?

Sheltering in place is an important concept in disaster preparedness. In turn, the main thing you'll need is supplies - food, water, a basic first-aid kit, and comfort/safety items.


True or false: You only need a kit for your home.

It's best to have supplies in three places: your home, your work and your vehicle. That said, the largest, best-stocked kit will probably be the one in your home.


Which of these is important to include in your food supply?

While a bit of sodium is essential to human health, you're likely to get enough from your food. But dry foods and canned foods are very useful for storage and quick preparation without electricity. Just, whatever you do, don't forget the can opener!


Which of these might cause a person to require more than the usual 72 ounces of water per day?

When preparing your emergency kit, consider special circumstances. The three above will all require extra drinking water.


Clearing trees or brush around your home can help in case of which of these?

The most obvious advantage of clearing is that fire can't easily jump to your house. However, in storms with high winds, you'll be happy when an older tree falls over at the edge of your yard, not right onto your roof.


A smoke alarm should be mounted...

Smoke rises, so smoke alarms should be high on walls. This is the same reason why you crawl low when escaping a house fire.


True or false: You should not refill milk or fruit-juice bottles with drinking water for storage.

If you're going to drink the water right away, this is okay. But these bottles can't be used for stored water. The sugars in milk and juice can't be fully rinsed out, and they provide food for bacteria to grow in the refilled bottles.


The term "bug-out" usually precedes the word...

This term is borrowed from the military. It means a bag stocked with things you'll need if you to be "omega mike" (on the move) in a hurry - for example, ahead of a wildfire.


Which of these is surprisingly heavy to carry?

A gallon of water weighs about 8.3 pounds. So you can see how adding even a day's worth of drinking water (about 1/2 gallon) really adds a lot of weight to your bug-out bag. It's worth considering sheltering in place instead.


Which of these does NOT belong in a bug-out bag?

Anything you're likely to need on the road should go in there. While cash or medications (especially pain meds) might be attractive to thieves, that's not a reason to leave them out, just to keep your bag with you.


A ______ blanket or sleeping bag is one that conserves heat very efficiently.

Yes, these bags and blankets really did get their name from being pioneered by NASA for use in space travel. Why might you need one, especially in your own home? Because if you live in a cold climate, and there's no heat for more than a day at a stretch, your regular bed or sleeping bag probably won't do the trick.


If you hear a hissing noise indicating a gas leak, you should ...

If you hear or smell gas, you should get everyone out of the house. If you are confident in your skill at shutting off the gas at the outside valve, then do so. But Job One is making sure everyone is safe.


True or false: Average people are allowed to own and use defibrillators.

Though they might seem intimidating, you don't have to be a licensed anything to use a defibrillator - but you should definitely get training, the same as you would for CPR. The reason more people don't know how to use these is that they're pretty expensive, so people rarely shell out for one for the home.


Which of these is key to maintaining a fire extinguisher?

Many people think to check the gauge to make sure the extinguisher is still pressurized. Fewer people know that it needs to be tipped back and forth once in a while, to keep the fire-retardant material inside from clumping (which means it might not discharge when needed). If you can't feel the stuff inside shifting back and forth as you turn the canister up and down, it's probably time to replace it.


How often should smoke alarms be tested?

Raise your hands, everyone who actually does this. Yes, we thought so. Still, if you can even get to a monthly schedule, you're probably doing better than average!


What dates do public-safety agencies recommend as dates to change the batteries in smoke alarms?

Since it's recommended you change out batteries twice a year, public-safety agencies use these two annual days as "reminder" days.


Which of these is a surprisingly good defense against smoke and fire?

Fire-safety experts recommend sleeping with your bedroom door closed, in case of fire in the night. Afraid that this will keep you from hearing an alarm? Having the smoke alarm right outside your bedroom door, or having one in the bedroom, will help.


Smoke alarms are best installed near which of these?

It's important to have them near bedrooms, as sleeping people are most vulnerable. Near ducts and windows are bad places for alarms. The supply of drafty fresh air can keep an alarm from sensing smoke and going off in a timely fashion.


True or false: Escape ladders for upper floors do more harm than good.

Escape or fire ladders are ones that roll up for easy storage (they're made of durable but flexible material) and have hooks so you can attach them quickly to windowsills or balcony railings. It's true that a person could hurt themselves in the case of hasty, improper use, but it's still better to have them than not.


Use of a generator during a power outage puts you at risk of which of these?

Generators that burn gasoline must be outside the home; even an attached garage is not safe, even with the door open. Solar generators, though less reliable, do not carry the risk of CO poisoning.


Covering your home's windows with plywood will help in case of which natural disaster?

Plywood helps windows to withstand hurricane winds. You could also buy special "hurricane shutters."


Which of these natural disasters tends to follow an earthquake?

If you live in a tsunami-prone area, i.e., coastland, you probably already know it. And you know that it isn't earthquakes in your own area that will cause a tsunami that will affect you. Rather, it's quakes thousands of miles away that send a shockwave across the ocean.


Often, the best strategy for dealing with a flood is to ...

Actually, going to a higher floor isn't a bad idea, but if you don't have food up there, and your home's water lines become contaminated with non-potable floodwater, well, it's not going to be a comfortable stay. Often the best thing to do is head out when authorities advise it.


Which of these dangers might floodwater introduce to your home?

This is why it's useful to shut off your home's electricity before a potential flood if you're determined to shelter in place. Afterward, wear waders, boots, and gloves to move around and clean up, as dangerous animals and sharp debris might be present.


Which of these is a safe place in an earthquake?

Doorways are very solidly built, and standing in one can keep you safe from falling debris. So can hiding under or right next to a sturdy table or desk. (No folding tables, please).


Which of these natural disasters gives the least warning?

Of course, the answer is earthquakes, which strike without warning. This is why advance preparation may be more important for quakes than any other kind of disaster.


Unplugging electrical devices is a good idea in an...

If you're laughing at the image of someone running around in the middle of an earthquake, trying to unplug things, it's okay. We are, too. The correct answer here is "thunderstorm," in which lightning strikes can cause power surges that damage electrical appliances or machines.


An N95 mask is good to have on hand in case of which of these?

Wildfires and the winds from them tend to carry unhealthy particulates. A mask rated N95 can be a big help while you're evacuating... or if you can't.


Which of these agencies puts out useful weather reports by radio?

Fishermen and sailors already know this. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration broadcasts detailed reports on the weather that can be especially helpful if you're on the lookout for hurricanes.


What is a "Good Samaritan" law?

All 50 U.S. states have enacted these, and they're sadly necessary for a lawsuit-happy society. A Good Samaritan law means that if you dislocate an injured person's shoulder while dragging them out of a burning building, they probably can't successfully sue you for it. (Doesn't mean they won't try, though).


Why should you make a videorecording of the interior of your home?

Well, future generations might enjoy seeing a video of your one-time home (but they probably won't). The point of this practice is documenting your possessions or home-improvements for insurance purposes.


Which of these is true about government sponsored text alerts?

Text alerts are a fairly new way for emergency agencies to get in touch with citizens. They won't cost you anything or disrupt other phone functions.


When is it okay to store gasoline or propane inside your home?

This is never, ever a good idea. If you have no outdoor storage places, buy a sturdy outdoor box at the hardware store. You can even find them at yard and garage sales, if you're frugal.


Fun fact question: Which of these U.S. cities is least prone to natural disasters?

Syracuse may not be America's most exciting city, but sometimes that's a good thing! Other than heavy rains or snows, there just isn't much this upstate New York town is vulnerable to - no earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, and indeed, no volcanoes! So if your idea of disaster prep is to move to a place with almost no disasters, this is your destination!


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