Home Fire Escape Plan


Home Fire Escape Plan

It is important to practice your home escape plan; family members must know what to do in the event of a fire in your home.  Most residential fires occur between 8pm and 8am.  Deaths from residential fires occur in greater numbers between midnight and 4am when most people are asleep.  More than 6,500 people die each year from fire – more than half of them children and senior citizens.  The majority of these deaths are in home fires.  Unless a small fire can be easily controlled, it is recommended that fighting the fire be left to professional firefighters and that family members escape safely from the home.

Regardless of the cause of the fire, a home may be filled with smoke. This is a very dangerous situation.  Family members may be unable to see well.  The smoke and toxic gases may cause dizziness and disorientation.  In the confusion, one can easily become lost or trapped in the home.  Family members must understand that their safety depends upon quickly leaving your home.  It has been proven that exit drills reduce chance of panic and injury in fires, and that trained and informed people have a much better chance to survive fires in their home.

Plan Ahead

The first step in escaping a fire in the home is to plan ahead.  Installing smoke detectors in the home and being sure they are in good working order can alert family members to the presence of smoke or fire before it is too late.  Together, family members can decide on an escape plan in the event of a fire in the home.

Bedroom doors should be closed while people are sleeping.  It takes fire 10 to 15 minutes to burn through a wooden door.  That’s 10 to 15 minutes more for the person to escape.

Plan an Escape Route

Each member of the family should know how to get safely outside by at least two routes: the normal exit, and a second exit through a door or window.  Family members should practice opening their windows to become familiar with their operation.  Jammed windows should be identified and repaired.  If, during a fire, a window is jammed, it may be broken out with an object and a blanket or towel placed over the frame to cover shards of glass.  However, it is much safer to open a window than it is to break the glass out.

Never put locks or bars on windows or doors that cannot be opened from the inside.

Realize the Danger of Smoke

Each member of your family should understand the importance of crawling low under smoke.  Smoke and heat rise so the best place to find fresher, cooler air is near the floor.  When a person is caught in a building filled with smoke, they should drop on hands and knees and crawl to the nearest exit.

Test all closed doors before opening them.  Feel the back of the door.  If it is hot, DO NOT open it. Turn and go to the second route of exit.  If the door is not hot, open slowly but be prepared to slam it closed if there are flames.

Practice what to do if you become trapped.  Since doors hold back smoke and firefighters are adept at rescue, the chances of survival are excellent.  Close doors between you and the smoke.  Stuff the cracks and cover vents to keep smoke out.

If there is a phone, call in your exact location to 911 even if they are on the scene.  Wait at the window and signal with a sheet, flashlight or something visible.

Establish a Safe Meeting Place

A special meeting place should be established a safe distance from the house.  It could be a mailbox, the neighbour’s driveway, or a large tree in the yard.   Whatever it is, it must be something that is stationary and won’t be moved (such as a car).  This is where everyone meets in the event of a fire.  It also prevents family members from wandering around the neighborhood looking for one another, or worse, being tempted to re-enter the burning house for one thought to be trapped inside.

Once outside at the special meeting place, a person can be sent to the neighbour’s to call 911.  If anyone is missing, give that information to the Fire Department immediately and them where the probable location of the missing person could be.  Under no circumstances should anyone re-enter the burning building.

Practice Your Fire Escape Plan

One very good step in the planning of a home fire escape plan is to make a floor plan.  Mark the regular and emergency escape routes, as well as windows, doors, stairs, and halls.

A good way to practice the effectiveness of a home fire escape plan is to position each family member in his or her bed, turn all the lights off, and activate the smoke detector by depressing the test switch.  Each family member should help “awaken” the others by yelling the alert. Family members should exit their rooms according to the plan, crawl low under smoke, practice feeling doors for heat, and meet in the designated location outside the home.

Exit Safely From High Rise Structures

Not all “homes” are single residential structures but include apartments and other types of buildings.  Most high-rise or multi-story apartment complexes post fire escape plans for all residents to see and follow.  However, these plans seldom include escape routes for each apartment.  Family members must develop and practice an evacuation plan for their individual apartment.

Jumping from upper floors of a building should be avoided.  However, it is possible to hang from a second story window and drop feet first to the ground without significant injury.  A sprained ankle or broken leg is better than dying.  Parents can purchase fire ladders for the bedrooms, or instruct children to use an adjacent porch or garage roof to await rescue by the Fire Department.

When exiting such a structure, do not use the elevator.  Elevators are notorious for stopping at the fire floor and killing the people inside.  A power failure may cause them to stop in between floors.  Use the fire escape or an enclosed fire resistive stairwell to exit.

As a family, explore the building so that every exit is familiar, including those from storage, laundry and recreation rooms.  If the hallways become smoke-filled as the result of a fire, memory can help in finding the exits.

Look for these important features in the building – enclosed exit stairways, clearly marked exits, clean hallways and lobbies, automatic sprinklers, fire alarm systems and smoke detectors.

Remember, Plan Ahead

The first step toward escaping a fire is to plan ahead. Practice a home fire escape plan throughout the year and be sure that if anything should change around the home, it is included in your home fire escape plan.