You may know your house like the back of your hand. You might even be able to walk through it in the dark without tripping or bumping into anything. But in the event of a fire, with smoke making you cough and your eyes water, with heat bearing down on you from every possible direction, you could easily find yourself trapped with no way out. A practiced and well-known fire escape plan could mean the difference between life and death. Here are some tips for creating a fire escape plan and practicing it with your family.
Fire Escape Planning
- Identify two escape routes out of every single room. Such as the doorway and window.
- Make sure each escape route can be used safely by everyone, no matter their age or size.
- Consider drawing a floor plan of your home and hanging it somewhere everyone can see. This can be a fun activity and a great way to memorize escape routes.
- Install smoke alarms inside and outside of every bedroom. You want to make sure no one can sleep through a fire.
- The National Fire Alarm Code requires all smoke alarms in a home be interconnected so that when one goes off they all go off. Most home alarm systems come with interconnected smoke detectors as well as fire alarm monitoring to make sure a fire never happens without everyone in your home being made aware.
- Items that block windows and doors can also block your escape in the event of a fire. Make sure your exits are unobstructed and that you can find your way to one in case of a fire.
- If your doors or windows have emergency bars, make sure there are emergency releases inside and that everyone knows how to use them.
- If there are elderly family members, infants, or other family members with mobility limitations, make sure someone is assigned to help them out in case of a fire.
- If you have guests staying the night, make sure they know of the family’s fire escape plan and maybe even give them a copy of the floor plan so they know where to go in case of a fire.
- Choose an outside meeting place a safe distance from your home where everyone can meet after they’ve made it out. A neighbor’s home is a good place
- Make sure your address is clearly visible from the road. If not, paint it on the curb or mailbox so that it is. The fire department can’t put out the fire if they can’t find the house.
- Make sure everyone, even the children, know to call 911 once they’ve safely made it outside.
- Once you get outside, stay outside. No one should ever go back inside for someone else.
Fire Safety Drills
- Walk through your escape plan with everyone in the house. You want to make sure everyone understands how to get out in case of a fire.
- When walking through the escape plan, make sure exits are clear and all escape routes can be accessed easily.
- When a fire alarm goes off, you need to be able to get out fast. Testing your escape plan with an alarm and stopwatch is a great way to safely practice the urgency of a real fire.
- Practice your fire escape plan at least twice a year.
- Once the family has practiced and knows the fire escape plan well, you should plan to hold a fire safety drill at night while everyone is sleeping. The objective is to make your drill as realistic as possible, not to frighten anyone, so it’s a good idea to notify everyone before they go to bed.
- Having a fire safety drill while everyone is sleeping is a great way to see how many people will wake up when the fire alarms go off. If someone doesn’t wake up during the drill you should make sure someone is assigned to wake them up in case of an actual fire.
- If your home has two floors, every family member should practice escape routes on every floor.
- Escape ladders can be placed near windows to create an additional exit. Make sure you read the instructions for the escape ladder and practice using it on a first-floor window so everyone knows how to use it when they need it. Children should only practice with adults and the ladder should be stored in an easy access location in case of an emergency.
- Fires create toxic smoke which rises. During your fire safety drill, family members should practice getting low and crawling to safety.
- Closing doors on your way out will slow the spread of the fire and give you more time to get to safety.
- In some places, like apartment buildings, you may not be able to get out. In this case, practice sealing yourself in. Close all doors between you and the fire. Use towels and duct tape to seal the door cracks so no smoke gets inside. Open any windows so fresh air gets in. Then call 911 and let them know exactly where you are. You can also wave a flashlight from your window so you can easily be found.