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Make a Fire Escape Plan for Your Home

A Family With a Fire Escape Plan

Draw up a plan in case of fire and practice it monthly to help keep your family safe.

Protect Your Family With a Fire Escape Plan

More than 3,500 Americans die each year in fires. But with a sound escape plan, these tragedies can be almost avoidable.

Time is of the essence when fire breaks out at home. A small flame can get out of control in less than 30 seconds, and within a few minutes thick black smoke can make your home impossible to navigate.

Discuss an escape plan with your family to ensure everyone’s safety. Here’s how:

Practice Specifics

Plan for two ways to escape each room -- a primary method and a back-up plan in case it’s blocked. (Think windows and the roof. You can purchase collapsible ladders to place near windows and they can be tossed out in an emergency.) Tour the house to discuss escape routes.

Make sure windows slide open easily, screens can be removed quickly, and quick-release devices on security bars are in good working order. Close your eyes and practice feeling your way out of a room. Make sure every family member understands how to use every type of window in the home.

Discuss Departure

If there is a fire in your home, leave quickly and carefully:

  • Don’t waste time gathering belongings. .They’re replaceable. Lives are not.
  • If you must escape through smoke, stay low and cover your mouth. The toxic gas can disorient or overcome you.
  • Never open a warm door. Feel doors at the top, doorknob, and crack. If it’s hot, use your secondary escape route. If not, open with caution by bracing your shoulder against the door. If heat and smoke roll in, slam it shut and leave another way.
  • Teach children not to hide from a firefighter who might enter the home in an emergency. Many times, children hide under their beds. Explain to them that the firemen are there to help them.
  • Designate a meeting place outside the house. This makes it easier to account for everyone. Elect one person to call the fire department from a neighbor’s house, or a cell phone.

Don't Return

Escape first, then notify the fire department. Never go back into a burning building for any reason. If someone is missing, notify the firefighters, who are equipped to perform rescue safely.

Practice, Prevent

Practice your escape routes a few times. Fire officials recommend monthly drills.

Prevention is also important, especially in homes where young children reside. Store lighters and matches out of reach and sight, and practice how to escape with your toddlers on a regular basis. Buy fire extinguishers for fire-prone areas like the kitchen, basement and garage.

Make sure every level of your home has a working smoke alarm. Test batteries monthly, and replace them yearly.

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