The first step in creating a fire safety escape plan for your home is to draw a floor plan for each level of your home, marking all possible emergency exits from each room via doors and windows. The door is always the ideal exit, but if it's blocked by fire then there needs to be an alternative, like a window. This means that windows need to be able to open easily from the inside, so as we mentioned previously, any security bars need a quick release latch that everyone in the home knows how to operate. If your exterior doors are deadbolt locked, then make sure there is a key in easy reaching distance to the door, so you don't have to waste time trying to get to your keys.
Be sure to include stairways, and details like a garage roof or porch that could aid in a quick escape. If you have a second story, it's not a bad idea to have portable fire escape ladders standing by that can be attached to a window and used to evacuate in an emergency. If you have young children, people with disabilities or elderly relatives living with you, they're probably going to need some assistance getting out, so you'll need to decide who is responsible for helping them. And don't forget to include your pets in the plan, as well. Have visible signage on your home of how many pets you have, so the fire department is aware or let them know when you call them that there are pets in the house.
In the case of a fire emergency, it's likely you'll have mere minutes to get everyone out safely, so taking a few minutes to plan these details in advance could literally be a matter of life or death. You'll also want to pick a meeting place outside of your house, so you can account for everyone and make sure they're safe.
Once you have all the details decided, you'll need to practice the plan to make sure you can execute it quickly. It's recommended to hold fire drills at least twice a year to make sure that everyone knows what to do without hesitation. This is a great time to discuss details of the real thing. For example, remind everyone not to open doors if the knobs are hot and crawl low and keep your mouth covered if there's smoke in the air. Also, everyone should be warned to not waste time trying to grab any property on the way out. Stuff can be replaced, but your family cannot.
- "Develop a home fire escape plan today...It could save your life tonight." Firesafetycouncil.com. (Jan. 28, 2012). www.firesafetycouncil.com/english/home_escape_plan.pdf
- "Escape Planning." Usfa.fema.gov. (Jan. 28, 2012). http://www.usfa.fema.gov/citizens/home_fire_prev/escape/
- "Fire Extinguisher Safety and Tips." Clevelandcounty.com. (Jan. 28, 2012). http://www.clevelandcounty.com/emfm/fireext.htm
- "Fire Prevention Tips." Homesafetycouncil.org. (Jan. 28, 2012). http://www.homesafetycouncil.org/safetyguide/sg_fire_w001.asp
- "Home Fires Involving Cooking Equipment." Nfpa.org. (Jan. 28, 2012). www.nfpa.org/assets/files/pdf/cookingexecutivesummary.pdf