The Great Escape

I am sure we all can recall partaking in fire drills at school or our place work. They’re done so often they become rudimentary. However, people often forget or ignore the importance of preparing an fire escape plan for where they spend the most time: the home. According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), roughly seven people died each day in U.S. home fires in 2013. Having a fire escape plan is quintessential and the implementation of such a plan is critical to ensuring a safe evacuation in event of a fire emergency. Here are some helpful tips to follow for preparing your home and creating and implementing a plan.

Prepare Your Home

In a fire, every second is crucial so the first step in any evacuation plan is ensuring your home has the necessary fire detection devices and equipment. Smoke alarm detectors should be installed in each sleeping room, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home. NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm Code® requires interconnected smoke alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.

Creating a Plan

Meet with everyone in your household and make a plan. Walk through your home and inspect all possible exits and escape routes. Households with children should consider drawing a floor plan and marking two ways out of each room, including windows and doors. Also, mark the location of each smoke alarm.

Consider the inhabitants. Are there small children, elderly, people with disabilities, or others who will require assistance? Make sure, someone is assigned to assist them.

Exiting a one-story, single-family structure is different from exiting a multi-family building such as high-rise condominium. For multi-family buildings, it’s good to speak to the building owner or association and gather necessary information regarding evacuation, as well as address any concerns.

For easy planning, download NFPA’s escape planning grid (PDF, 1.1 MB). Note evacuation methods vary depending on type and features of the home.

Choose an outside meeting place (i.e. neighbor’s house, a light post, mailbox, etc.). The area should be a safe distance away and in front of your home where everyone can meet after escape. Avoid meeting in the street or other vehicle accessible area as these spots can be dangerous, especially at night when visibility is diminished. Make sure to mark the location of the meeting place on your escape plan.

Once out, stay out! Under no circumstances should you ever go back into a burning building. If someone is missing, inform the dispatcher when you call. Firefighters have the skills and equipment to perform rescues.

Implementation

Everyone in the household must understand the escape plan. Tell guests or visitors to your home about your family’s fire escape plan. When you walk through your plan, check to make sure the escape routes are clear and doors and windows open easily.

As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. Practice your home fire escape plan at least twice a year with increased frequency during the early stages of implementation until everyone has the basics down. Make the drill as realistic as possible. Practice at different times of day such as at night when visibility is not as great. Note closing doors on your way out slows the spread of fire, giving you more time to escape.

In some cases, smoke or fire may prevent you from exiting. To prepare for an emergency like this, practice “sealing yourself in for safety” as part of your home fire escape plan. Close all doors between you and the fire. Use duct tape or towels to seal the door cracks and cover air vents to keep smoke from entering. If possible, open your windows at the top and bottom so fresh air can get in. Call the fire department to report your exact location. Wave a flashlight or light-colored cloth at the window to let the fire department know where you are located.

Remember every second in a fire is crucial and can literally be the difference between life and death. A good escape plan combined with practice of the plan will ensure you and your loved ones will be able to safely evacuate.

Do you have a plan in place for your family? Share some lessons learned while practicing your escape in the comments below.

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