You’ve heard of stop, drop and roll. You know how to call 9-1-1. You change the batteries in your smoke alarm at least twice a year. But do you have a fire escape plan?
According to the American Red Cross, only 26% of families have actually developed and practiced a home fire escape plan.
The issue lies in the fact that many people believe that they have more time to get out if there’s a fire. But in fact, it may only be about two minutes.
With 501,500 structure fires occurring in the U.S. during 2015,2 it’s critical that you and all of the members of your household take the time to find and practice your escape routes.
Take a look at these tips and create your own home fire escape plan.
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1. Do a walk through.
Gather the family and take a walk through your home. Be sure to examine all windows and doors, and note at least two ways out of each room.
2. Write it down.
Especially if you have children in your home, it’s important that you take the time to physically map out your escape routes. One great tool is NFPA’s Home Escape Plan. The coloring book-like chart can help get your kids involved and educated on the fire escape plan.
3. Think about escape ladders.
Consider purchasing escape ladders for rooms on upper-level floors. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and have everyone in your home practice using the ladders from first-story windows. Keep these escape ladders near the windows where they will be used.
4. Get others out.
While the most important thing is to get yourself out of the building quickly, if there are infants, older adults or family members who would need help escaping, assign a family member to assist them. Be sure to also designate a backup in case the assigned person isn’t at home during a fire.
5. Pick a meeting spot.
Come up with a place to meet after everyone has evacuated the house. The meeting spot should be a safe distance from your home. And instruct everyone to stay outside under all circumstances and call 9-1-1 once you are out of the house.
6. Practice makes perfect.
There’s no better way to be prepared than to practice your plan. Conduct a home fire drill and run through your escape routes at least twice a year.
Even with a perfectly practiced fire escape plan, sometimes smoke, heat or flames can block your way out. If this is the case, NFPA says to stay in the room with the door closed and call the fire department and report your exact location. Use towels or duct tape to seal door cracks and cover air vents. If possible, open your windows and wave a flashlight or light-colored cloth to let the fire department know exactly where you are located.
While an escape plan is a major part of home fire safety, there are other important ways to prepare for and prevent house fires. Inspect your home for fire hazards and check your smoke alarms regularly to minimize risk and ensure that your family stays safe.
1 - American Red Cross
2 - National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA)