How to Plan a Home Fire Escape Route
Remember those fire drills when you were in school. You had to grab your coat and rush outside the building as fast as you could without running. And, somebody timed how long it took everyone to evacuate the school. Turns out those drills were a good idea because everyone knew what to do when the fire alarm sounded. It was ingrained into them. Planning and practicing are still key factors for survival today should your home catch fire.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 2013 saw an estimated 369,500 home structure fires in the United States and 2,755 civilian deaths associated with those fires. Additionally, someone was burned or injured in some way by fire every 33 minutes in that same year.
The most common causes of home fires include:
- Cooking (usually someone leaves something cooking on the stove unattended)
- Kids playing with fire
- Someone falling asleep while smoking
- Electrical (especially overusing extension cords)
- Leaving candles burning
- Fireplaces that need cleaning
- Improper dryer venting
- Highly flammable products left near a heat source
Once a fire starts, it can spread swiftly and you may only have a couple of minutes to make a safe escape. That’s why a plan is imperative. Now, while the weather stays warm all day, you should gather the family and make preparations for what to do in case of a fire. Get everyone involved so they can give suggestions and know what to do in case of an emergency.
10 Step Plan to Prepare for Fire
Your prep should include the following:
1. Make sure every sleeping room has a smoke detector.
Test them once a month and to be sure they will sound when they detect smoke. Also, replace them every ten years.
2. Go outside and ensure your house number is visible from the road.
This simple action helps any emergency response team find you. The numbers need to be big enough to be seen from the road and having them stenciled on the curb also helps.
3. Have two ways out of each room.
On your fire escape planning grid, mark a door and a window out of each room that can be used for escape.
4. Walk through your house.
Look for all possible exits and remove anything blocking those exits.
5. Completely draw the escape route.
Make sure everyone knows to call the emergency number for the fire department first and that they understand where to go, to not open doors warm to the touch and to crawl low to avoid inhaling smoke.
6. Don’t forget pets, the young and elderly.
If you have pets, small children or elders with mobility issues in your family, assign someone to help each of them in case a fire breaks out.
7. Two and three story homes need ladders.
You’ll need an escape ladder in each of the upper story rooms. Ladders come in two story and three story options. The Seattle Fire Department has created a helpful fact sheet to give you more information about fire escape ladders.
8. Designate a gathering place so you and firefighters know everyone is out of the house.
This can be your neighbor’s house, a pole outside or some place near the front of your home.
9. Once outside, stay outside.
Never go back into a burning building under any circumstances. Let the fire fighters know if someone is missing.
10. Practice your escape plan.
The NFPA says you should have household fire drills at least twice a year. You should also do them when your children are asleep to determine if they readily awaken or if you need to have someone wake them up.
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