Fire Escape Plan

Fire kills thousands of people a year. In many cases, proper planning and preparation could have saved their lives. Yes, fire is deadly. But you can escape from it. If people are alerted to the fire in time and know proper escape procedures, they can survive even major fires in their homes. In a recent National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) survey, half of the people responding said their family had a fire escape plan, but only 16 percent said they had practiced it.

Survival is Simple

  • Install smoke alarms and keep them in proper working order.
  • Make an escape plan and practice it.
  • React immediately at the first sign of fire.
  • Stay calm.

Plan Your Escape

There’s no time for planning during a fire emergency. Sit down with your family today and create a step-by-step plan for escaping a fire. Draw a detailed map of your home, marking two ways out (including windows) for every room – especially sleeping areas. Discuss the escape routes with every member of your household. Agree on a place outside your home for everyone to meet after escaping the fire to wait for the fire department. This way, you can quickly take a head count and inform the fire department if anyone is missing or trapped inside the burning building.

IMPORTANT: Practice your escape plan at least twice a year. Conduct a fire drill in your home. Appoint someone to be monitor and have everyone participate. A fire drill is not a race. Get out quickly, but carefully.

Make your exit drill realistic. Pretend that some exits are blocked by fires and practice using alternate escape routes. Pretend the lights are out and that some escape routes are filling with smoke.

Be Prepared

Preparation is the best way to increase your chances of escaping a fire safely. Everyone must be properly informed and aware of exits, escape routes and procedures to follow in case of a fire. Make sure everyone in the household can unlock all doors and windows quickly, even in the dark. Windows or doors with security bars need to be equipped with quick-release devices that everyone in the household should know how to use.

If you live in an apartment building, use stairways to escape. Never use an elevator during a fire. It may stop between floors or take you to a floor where the fire is burning. Some high-rise buildings may have evacuation plans that require you to stay where you are and wait for the fire department. If you live in a two-story house and you must escape from a second-story window, be sure there is a safe way to reach the ground. Make special arrangements for children, older adults, and people with disabilities. People who have difficulty moving should have a phone in their sleeping area and, if possible, should sleep on the ground floor.

Remember to always test doors before you open them. While kneeling or crouching at the door, reach up as high as you can and touch the door, the knob, and the crack between the door and its frame with the back of your hand. If the door is warm, use another escape route – the fire is near. If the door is cool, open it with caution. Put your shoulder against the door and open it slowly. Be prepared to slam it shut if there is smoke or flames on the other side.

If an escape route is not accessible, close all doors between you and the fire. Stuff the cracks around the doors with t-shirts, bed sheets, or blankets to keep out smoke. Wait at a window and signal for help with a light-colored cloth or flashlight. Do not break out the window – you may need to close it. If there’s a phone in the room, call the fire department immediately and tell them exactly where you are.

Get Out …

If there is a fire, do not stop for anything, including attempting to rescue possessions or pets. Leave the building, go directly to your meeting place, and call the fire department. Every member of your household should know how to call the fire department.

To increase your chances of getting out of a burning home or building safely, crawl low under the smoke. Smoke contains deadly gases and heat rises. During a fire, cleaner air will be near the floor. If you encounter smoke when using your primary exit, use an alternate escape route. If you must exit through smoke, crawl on your hands and knees, keeping your head 12 to 24 inches (30 to 60 centimeters) above the floor.

…and Stay Out

Once you are out of your home, stay out. Do not go back inside any reason. This can be an extremely difficult thing to do when their loved ones might be trapped inside. But if they are trapped, the firefighters have the best chance of rescuing them. Intense heat and smoke of a fire are overpowering and only firefighters have the training, experience, and protective equipment needed to enter burning buildings.

Play it Safe

Taking proper precautions are your best defense against fire. More importantly, smoke alarms are the most vital tool in saving lives, alerting people before they are trapped or overcome by smoke. More than half of all fatal home fires happen at night while people are asleep. With smoke alarms, your risk of dying in a home fire is cut nearly in half. Install smoke alarms outside every sleeping area and on every level of your home, including the basement. Follow installation instructions carefully and test smoke alarms monthly. And remember to change all smoke-alarm batteries at least once a year. If your alarm is more than 10 years old, replace it. For complete home protection, consider installing an automatic fire-sprinkler system.