image of a family implementing their fire escape plan

Families should plan several fire escape routes from their homes and practice regularly with the whole family.

Fires can spread quickly and erratically, often following no real pattern. In fire emergencies, every second counts, making it vital that families are prepared. It only takes minutes for a house to fill with smoke and become completely engulfed in flames. The best preparedness a family can have is an escape plan. Escape plans help families evacuate the home quickly and safely through routes that they have previously discussed and practiced.

It is recommended that families not only have a fire escape plan in place, but that they have multiple escape plans in place from each room. Because fires are unpredictable, having only one escape route could limit your family and leave them trapped. It is also important for families to practice fire escape plans a few times a year. Practicing fire escape routes ensures that everyone can safely exit the home on their own in case of a fire. Overnight guests should also be aware of your fire escape plans.

Also, closing bedroom doors before going to sleep can be the difference between life and death. In the event of a fire, closed bedroom door keep out smoke and poisonous gases like carbon monoxide, and keep temperatures much lower than in rooms with open doors. That gives occupants more time to survive and get out.

Some tips to consider when preparing your fire escape plans include:

  • Draw a map of each level of your home and show all doors and windows. Find two ways to get out of each room. Make sure all doors and windows that lead outside open easily.
  • Teach children how to escape on their own in case you cannot help them.
  • Have a plan for everyone in your home who has a disability.
  • Practice your fire escape plan at night and during the daytime.
  • Close bedroom doors before going to sleep.
  • Designate a meeting spot outside of your home a safe distance away to ensure that all family members are safe.
  • Remind family members that once they are out, it is important to stay out. You should never go back into a burning building for any reason. If someone is trapped in the home, allow firefighters who are equipped to enter the home to rescue them.
  • Only purchase collapsible escape ladders evaluated by a recognized testing laboratory. Use the ladder only in a real emergency.

If a fire occurs, it’s important that your family understands they need to get out fast and safely. Instruct family members to take the safest exit route, and remind them that if they must escape through smoke they should crawl low, under the smoke and keep their mouths covered. The smoke contains toxic gases, which can cause you to get disoriented.

Also, remind family members that they should never open doors that are hot to the touch. If you feel the doorknob or door and it is hot, leave the door closed and use a secondary escape route. If the door feels cool, open it slowly and be ready to shut it quickly if heavy smoke or fire is present. If all of your escape routes are blocked and you become trapped, close the doors and cover vents and cracks around the doors to keep the smoke out and call 9-1-1 immediately. Stay where you are and signal for help at the window with a light-colored cloth or a flashlight.