Less than five minutes is all the time you have to get out of your home safely once a fire starts.
That's down significantly from the 17 minutes you used to have before engineered lumber, synthetic furnishings and open floor plans started turning small fires into a flashover very quickly.
"When we talk about flashover, that's when everything in the room is totally consumed by the fire," said Mark Riffey, a fire safety expert.
"The fire department gets notified by the dispatcher and they get to the scene. All too often, it takes three minutes to get the fire department notified. They arrive in three minutes, and unfortunately, they're one minute too late," he said.
Fires spread quickly, which is the main reason many fire safety experts and insurance companies are now recommending home sprinkler systems, which can cut your chance of dying in a fire by about 80 percent.
Dale Saucier, fire department safety chief, said sprinklers can make the difference.
"Residential sprinklers are going to end up catching that fire in the insipient phase before it moves on to fully developed, and then you get flashovers," he said.
More than 3200 lives were lost and more than $14 billion in property damage occurred in fires across the country last year.
This controlled burn of a modernly furnished 8-by-8-foot room flashed over in just about two minutes. A similar room with a working sprinkler system never reached flashover, preventing more extensive damage and, more importantly, the formation of toxic smoke that is the primary cause of death for victims of indoor fires.
Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List, said a typical single-family home can be equipped with adequate sprinkler coverage for $5,000 to $10,000.
She recommends getting at least three estimates from experienced fire security companies, along with details of their system. Obviously, working fire extinguishers and alarms are key, too.
If fire breaks out, get yourself and your family out to safety before calling 911.
Less than five minutes that's all the time you have to get out of your home safely once a fire starts.