How to Make a Fire Escape Plan

Fire escape planningFire is one of the deadliest disasters that can strike your family, but with a well-planned and frequently rehearsed fire safety plan, you can make sure everyone survives. Here's how to prepare.

Get the whole family involved

If family members are involved in creating the plan, they'll be more attentive and have better recall of the details. Children especially will be more confident and have more of a sense of control. Plus, more eyes on the plan means fewer chances something will be overlooked.

Begin with a tour

Conduct a walkthrough, looking for any conditions making a fire more likely or making it less likely you'll get out if one occurs. Make sure all exits are clear, keeping in mind that you may be trying to leave the building in dark or smoky conditions. Check for windows that are difficult to open. Check the placement and number of smoke alarms and test them.

Make the plan

Draw a floor plan of your home showing all doors, windows and smoke and/or carbon monoxide alarms. Mark two or more routes out of each room, preferably in a color that stands out. Download our Home Fire Escape Plan checklist to create your plan. Then, choose a location outdoors as your family meeting place and mark it on the plan. It should be a safe distance from the house, but not across the street. It should be at the front of the home—so you'll be easily visible to arriving firefighters—and be easy to find in dark conditions. A large tree, your mailbox or even the front sidewalk is ideal. There you can make sure everyone has escaped safely and no one will be hurt looking for someone who is already safe.

Decide what to do

Once you know the routes and meeting place, discuss what to do in case of fire. This may be much more complicated than “get out of the house.” If you have disabled family members or infants, designate a specific person to help them get out. Some people (especially small children) are such deep sleepers that a smoke alarm won't wake them, so you may need to choose someone to wake them. Discuss what will occur at your meeting place. Make it clear no one will be going back inside for anything, not even pets. Talk over whose home you'll go to call the fire department if you have no cell phone with you.

Drill effectively

Fire safety authorities such as the National Fire Protection Association recommend holding a fire drill twice a year, but you'll need to do more than that when you first put your plan together. Drill a couple of times not long after putting your fire safety plan together, so that the plan gets fixed in everyone's mind. Do them in daylight, announce them in advance and keep them simple, without even specifying where the fire is. The only goal is to get out at a safe speed and reach the family meeting place. Begin the drill with a whistle, by calling out “Fire, fire, fire” several times or by using the test setting on your smoke alarm. Don't do a nighttime drill yet; wait until children are comfortable with the process and have practiced it at least a couple of times. Once the family has that drill down, try some where a main escape route is cut off by “flames,” or you have to crawl under smoke to get out of the house. Now's the time to try a night drill—let children know about the drill before they go to sleep—and use the test setting on the smoke alarm to see if the kids will be awakened by that noise alone. After any drill, discuss how it went and identify any problems you need to correct. Stress again that it's never OK to re-enter the house. Depending on your results, you may want to hold a drill monthly. Panic is always a lethal danger in an emergency, but planning and practice drive it out. Make a fire safety plan today, practice it often and have peace of mind all year long. download how to make a home fire escape plan
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