What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night to smoke creeping under your door? Would you push through to see what’s on the other side, or maybe escape through the window? Imagine the fright, the adrenaline, the nervousness. All of these emotions could impact the way you choose to face a house fire. The truth is, you don’t really know what you would do in the event of a fire unless you had a plan thought through beforehand.
In just two minutes, a fire can become life threatening. In five minutes, your home could be engulfed in flames. Every second counts, so you and your family must always be prepared. Escape plans help to get everyone out of your home quickly.
A few minutes of your time are worth a thousand years in the event you fall victim to a house fire.
Step 1: Draw a Simple Floor Map
You can use something as simple as a scratch piece of paper, or something as detailed as grid paper for your blueprint. Outline every floor of your home along with the windows and doors adjoined to each room. Also, be sure to mark the location of all smoke alarms, fire extinguishers and emergency kits located in the home.
PRO TIP: You can make this a fun activity with little ones, too. Let them handle adding the doors, windows and other markings with their favorite color!
Step 2: Lay Out All Possible Escape Routes
At a minimum, be sure to draw two exits from each room of the house. The most desirable escape routes will likely be the common entrances to your home, such as the patio slider or front door, depending on where everyone is when the fire breaks out. Windows are definitely an escape option, but should be used as a last resort.
Step 3: Choose an Outside Meeting Spot
Choosing a common place to meet following an emergency will ensure everyone can find each other quickly and easily. Choose a location that is a safe distance from your home; such as your mailbox, a light pole or a tree. Once you’ve reached this checkpoint, it is safe to contact the fire department.
Step 4: Review the Escape Plan with Your Family
This is potentially the most important step of all. When emotions are high your family, children in particular, need to be prepared to act upon the plan you’ve provided them to get out alive and have the best chance at survival.
Make sure your children understand the primary and secondary escape routes in case any primary routes are blocked. Explain to children that it is never okay to hide under their bed in the event of a fire, as this makes them very difficult to find.
PRO TIP: Quiz your little one’s on the escape plan and offer them something in return, like an ice cream treat! Kids love ice cream!
Step 5: Make Sure Adults Know Their Roles
Assign the adults and older more responsible children specific duties to preform in the event of a fire. For example, one adult can be in charge of gathering nearby pets, while another is responsible for ensuring children and elders are safe.
If everyone is familiar with their responsibilities, the chances of escaping a house fire increase dramatically.
Step 6: Practice the Plan At Least Twice a Year
Don’t wait for a fire to occur to measure the effectiveness of your plan… Practice your escape routes with the entire household, together, at least twice a year. Use a timer and try your best to get everyone out appropriately in less than two minutes to gauge how well your primary and secondary routes stack up against one another.
PRO TIP: You can truly prepare if you practice your drill at night, with no lights on in the home. This way everyone can get used to having to rely on other senses if visibility is diminished due to smoke.
We know it seems simple and unlikely that you’ll ever have to escape your burning home, but approximately 352,000 home fires occur every year! A fire could be caused by your appliances, electrical wiring, heating elements, candles and much more. Taking a few minutes of your time is so worth it.