If your home catches on fire, your family’s safety may depend on advance planning. Panic may set in during an emergency, but with a home fire evacuation plan, everyone in the family will have planned and practiced how to get out of the house quickly and safely.
These 12 tips will help you create and practice your fire evacuation plan:
1. Have working smoke detectors
You’ll need as much advance warning as possible in case of a fire, so have a smoke detector on each floor, specifically inside and outside each bedroom. Test them once or twice a year, making sure they have fresh batteries and operate properly.
2. Make sure all exits are unblocked
Make sure there are no items blocking doors and windows in your home. Check to make sure exits are clear as part of your fire evacuation plan, and also in case firefighters need to gain access.
3. Create a plan
Get everyone in your household together and create a fire evacuation plan. Walk through your home and identify escape routes. You should be able to identify two ways out of each room.
4. Have escape ladders if necessary
If your home has two floors, you’ll need escape ladders. Put these near windows, and practice using them from the first floors.
5. Teach low crawling
Practice low crawling as the best way to get out of a smoke-filled house. Make sure family members know to “stop, drop, and roll” if their clothes catch on fire.
6. Put your fire evacuation plan on paper
Draw your fire evacuation plan out on a piece of paper, marking each escape route. This helps everyone, especially children, understand exactly where each exit is located.
7. Practice regularly
Practice your fire evacuation plan monthly, making sure to practice at night and during the day. Tell children when you’re going to be practicing so you don’t frighten them. Practice going through windows, too, so you can ensure that they can be easily opened. Everyone should be able to get out of the house in a maximum of two minutes.
8. Make sure that children wake up
Some children, especially very young ones, will sleep through a smoke alarm. If they don’t wake up when you test the alarm, assign someone to wake them up during a drill and during a fire.
9. Establish a meeting place
In case of a fire, you’ll need to know who’s gotten out safely. Establish a meeting place as part of your fire evacuation plan. Make sure it’s far enough away from the house, like your mailbox, to be safe.
10. Look out for everyone in the household
If you have older adults, very young children, or family members with mobility limitations, designate someone to help them as part of your fire evacuation plan. Name a backup person as well, in case the first person isn’t home when the fire starts.
11. Get out and stay out
Make sure everyone understands that the goal is to get out of the house as quickly as possible, stay out, and then call 911. If anyone is still in the house, let the fire dispatcher know. Trained firefighters can go back in if needed.
12. Make a plan if you can’t get out
Practice what to do if you absolutely can’t get out of your home during a fire. Everyone should know to close all doors between themselves and the fire. Seal door cracks and air vents with towels to keep smoke from coming in. Open a window if possible so fresh air can get in, and wave a light-colored cloth or flashlight at the window to let firefighters know where you are.