Would you know the best way to escape if you had a fire in your home? Fewer than 1 in 4 Americans have created and practiced a home fire escape plan that could save their lives, according to the National Fire Protection Association, which has posted helpful information on its site to mark Fire Prevention Week (October 9–15, 2011). If you and your family haven’t developed a fire safety plan -- or haven’t gone over yours in a while -- now is the time to do so.
Develop a fire escape plan
Take these vital steps so you are prepared for a fire emergency:
- Have a smoke alarm on each level of your home. Choose an alarm that can sound quickly for both a fire with flames and one with only smoke. This type of smoke detector is known as a “dual sensor smoke alarm” and is available at hardware stores and elsewhere. Test the batteries for your smoke alarm once a month and replace them once a year, the U.S. Fire Administration recommends.
- Develop an escape plan for each room. Use paper with grid lines to draw up a floor plan for each room, and mark all exits. Look for two ways to escape from each room so you have an alternate route if the first is blocked by fire. A window may serve as a second exit. Make sure you can remove screens and can open windows and any security bars easily. Practice using your escape routes regularly. Be familiar with how to find your way out of your home with your eyes closed by feeling your way and crawling or staying close to the ground to remain under any smoke.
- Consider buying a fire safety ladder. If your home has upper-floor windows that don’t open onto a fire escape or adjacent roof, consider buying a collapsible fire ladder that you can hook over a windowsill, available at hardware stores and elsewhere. Buy only ladders certified by a product-safety testing organization such as the Underwriters Laboratory.
- Choose a place to meet outside your home. Pick a place your family members can remember easily, such as a tree at the end of a driveway or near a neighbor’s house. Agree that you will all go there immediately so you can take attendance and not waste time looking for someone who is safe.
- Decide who will help a young child, an older person, or someone with a disability escape from the fire.
Steps to take if a fire breaks out
Teach children and others to take these steps if a fire occurs:
- Leave your home first, then call for help. Flames can sweep through a home in less than a minute. Make sure everyone knows to escape first, then call the fire department or the local emergency number (911 in most places).
- Never open a door that feels hot. A fire may be blazing on the other side and sweep into the room if you open the door. Use the second exit that you have selected.
- Stop, drop, and roll on the ground if clothes catch fire. Rolling on the ground will help to put out the flames.
- Never return to a burning home once you have escaped. Fire can spread so fast that the flames may be much worse than when you left.
“In the event of a fire, remember -- time is the biggest enemy and every second counts!” the U.S. Fire Administration says. Create an escape plan now and practice it often so everyone in your household will know how to stay safe during a fire.