How to Make a Home Fire Escape Plan
Steps to protect your family in case of a fire
Your home has properly installed smoke detectors and you never forget to replace the batteries. But would you and your family know what to do if one of them went off?
According to the American Red Cross, 82 percent of households have never practiced a fire drill. More than half of parents have never even discussed fire safety with their kids.
A house fire is frightening, but if you have a clear escape plan and everyone knows what to do, you won’t waste precious time panicking. Here’s how to get your family prepared.
1. Do a walk through. Go for a tour of the house as a family. Make note of at least two ways out of each room, including doors and windows. Be sure windows aren’t hard to open, especially for kids. Stress that it’s vital to close doors when leaving a room. This can help to slow the flames. (The last person out should also shut the door of the house.)
2. Pick a meeting place. Head outside to find a safe spot to gather. It should be far enough from your house (across the street or down the block) to be safe. To make it easy to remember, choose an area with a permanent landmark, such as a streetlamp or neighbor’s mailbox.
3. Assign each young child a buddy. Choose an older sibling or parent. This person’s job is to guide the little one to safety. You may want to designate a back-up buddy in case someone is out of town or at a sleepover.
4. Put your fire plan on paper. You can even draw a simple blueprint of your house on graph paper to show where exits are. Post copies throughout the house. Don’t forget to show it to overnight guests. (If you’re visiting someone else, it’s smart to ask what you should do in case of a fire according to the National Fire Protection Association.)
5. Demonstrate safety moves. Show your kids how to “stop, drop and roll” if their clothing catches fire. And show them how to crawl instead of walk to the nearest exit. (Explain that because smoke rises, the air is safer near the floor.) As soon as kids are old enough, make sure they know how to call 911 to report a fire (or any emergency). Children also should know their home address. A fun way to spark a little one’s interest in fire safety is the National Fire Protection Association’s site for kids.
6. Plan to leave pet rescue to the pros. Resign yourself and the rest of the family to leaving the house immediately, without taking time to hunt down a dog or cat or snatch a bunny from its cage. “In fact, you’re doing your pet a favor. The sooner you’re out, the sooner you can call the fire department. Fire fighters are trained and have the proper equipment to rescue animals,” says Judy Comolleti, division manager of public education for the National Fire Protection Association. Incidentally, the NFPA does not recommend putting decals on doors or windows to alert firemen that there are animals (or little kids) inside. “If you no longer have the pet or your children are all grown up, the fire department will waste precious time looking for a pet or tot who isn’t there,” says Comolleti.
7. Have a home fire drill at least twice a year. Besides making sure everyone knows what to do, clock your escape. You have about two minutes to get out of the house after a smoke detector goes off. If it takes longer than that, re-examine the plan to see where you can save time. Schedule at least one drill for late at night. (Let your kids know what’s going to happen.) Throughout the year, go over the details of the plan. Quiz your kids at the dinner table or in the car, for example.