How to Make a Home Fire Safety Plan
House fires. We see them in the movies and we hear about them happening to strangers—but we never expect to experience one in our own homes. The sobering truth, however, is that these types of events are more common than you may think. Nearly 30% of reported fires in 2014-2018 occurred in homes—and more than three-quarters of fire deaths were caused by home fires. If a fire were to strike your home, would you know what to do? Would your family members?
In the event of fire, time is the biggest enemy, and every second counts. That’s why a safe escape for you and your family depends on a clearly communicated evacuation plan that will get everyone out as quickly as possible. Stay with us as we cover everything you need to know to keep your family safe in the event of an emergency.
Create an Escape Plan from a Fire
The first step in creating your fire evacuation plan should be to hold a family meeting to talk about fire safety. Discuss the fact that in just two minutes, a home fire can become life threatening. The goal is not to scare anyone, but to help them understand how creating a simple plan before disaster strikes may be the difference between life and death.
Next, gather everyone in your household and walk through each room in your home, inspecting all possible exits and escape routes that you could take in the event of a fire. Your plan should include at least two ways to escape from every room, in case one exit is blocked or too dangerous to use. You may want to consider drawing a map of your home, marked with both exits in each room, and keep it in an accessible place where everyone will see it regularly, such as on the refrigerator.
If your home has two floors, every family member (including children) must be able to safely evacuate from the second floor rooms. Consider placing emergency ladders in or near windows to provide an additional escape route. Practice setting up the ladder from a first floor window to make sure you can do it quickly and correctly. Keep the ladder near the window, in an easily accessible location so that it’s immediately available in the event of a fire.
You’ll also need to go over how to get out of the house. Before opening a door, it’s important to touch it first. If the door is hot, keep it closed and find another way out. Show your family members how to exit a smokey building by dropping to their bellies and crawling out under the smoke.
Plan for Everyone in Your Home
Not everyone will wake up when a smoke alarm sounds, and some may not be able to react as quickly as others. Take into account the special needs of everyone in your household during an emergency. This may include making special arrangements for young children, elderly family members or those with a disability, and pets. Make sure that someone is assigned to assist them during a fire drill and in the event of an actual fire. Choose a backup person too, in case the assigned person is not home during the emergency.
Install and Regularly Check Fire Smoke Alarms
A home fire safety plan can only be successful if you have fully operational smoke detectors on each level of your home. In fact, working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in a home fire in half.
Install smoke alarms in every sleeping room, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. The National Fire Protection Association strongly encourages interconnected smoke alarms throughout the home because when one sounds, they all sound, alerting the entire household. Once installed, test your smoke alarms once a month and make sure to change the batteries twice a year.
Clear Your Escape Routes
If you have any items blocking the doors and windows in your home—especially heavier items such as furniture—they could keep you from escaping in the event of a home fire. Make sure all evacuation routes in the home are clear and safe to use for each member of the household.
Pick a Meeting Place to Meet Safely Away from the Home
Next, you’ll need to choose a place where everyone can meet once safely out of the home. Choose a location that’s a safe distance away from the burning home and easy to remember, such as a neighbor’s house or a stop sign. Pick a spot that’s in the front of the house so that emergency responders can see you when they arrive—and make sure everyone in your family knows not to go back into the house after you leave.
Practice Home Fire Drills
Creating a fire safety plan is the first step, but you’ll also have to make sure it works. Practice your home fire escape plan to ensure that every member of your household can evacuate in less than two minutes—and make sure it’s as realistic as possible.
Rehearse how to touch closed doors and door knobs or handles to see if they are hot from fire, and how to stay in place and seal the room as much as possible if fire prevents escaping a room. Practice escaping halls and rooms by getting low and crawling under the smoke to the closest and safest exit.
And because fires can start anywhere in the home and at any time, it’s important to practice fire drills that simulate both daytime and nighttime emergencies. Rehearse the drill at night to determine whether everyone can easily wake up to the sound of the smoke alarm. If they fail to awaken, make sure that someone is assigned to wake them up as part of the drill and in a real emergency situation. Once you have it down, practice your home fire escape plan at least twice a year.
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