How to help your family plan and practice a fire escape route

Photo (c) sturti - Getty Images

Having a plan and practicing it can make all the difference in an emergency

Would your family know what to do if the smoke alarm went off in the middle of the night?

According to a survey conducted by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), three-quarters of Americans have created an escape plan in case of a fire at home. However, less than half of those people have ever practiced their plans.  

Fire Prevention Week is this week -- October 8-14, 2017. This year’s Fire Prevention Week theme, “Every Second Counts: Plan 2 Ways Out” aims to reinforce potentially life-saving messages.

Have a first and second way out

Fire safety officials say you may have as little as 1-2 minutes to escape safely after you hear the smoke alarm sound. For this reason, it’s critical to make sure every family member knows how to use that small timeframe effectively.

The NFPA recommends making an escape plan that shows two ways out of every room in case one exit gets blocked. Additionally, it's important to practice those plans to make sure they can be accomplished in two minutes or less.

Here are a few tips for developing and practicing your home escape plan.

  • Create a plan based on your home’s layout. Draw a map of your home with all members of your household, marking two exits from each room and a path to the outside from each exit. 
  • Perform a mock evacuation twice a year. Practice your fire escape plan at least twice a year. Conduct one practice run at night (since about half of home fire deaths result from fires reported between the hours of 11:00 pm and 7:00 am, according to the NFPA) and one during the day with everyone in your home. Practice using different ways out.
  • Teach kids to “get low and go.” Make sure your children know the emergency phone number for your fire department, as well as how to escape on their own in case you can’t help them. Teach them that "stop, drop, and roll" should only be used if their clothing catches fire. Otherwise, crouching down very low and crawling around the perimeter of the room to the exit is best.
  • Never go back inside a burning building. Close doors behind you as you leave. This may slow the spread of smoke, heat, and fire. And once you get outside, stay outside.
  • Make sure your house number is visible. To help firefighters, make sure your house or building number can be seen from the street.
  • Establish a family meeting spot. Whether it’s a tree, light pole, or some other permanent landmark, make sure your family has agreed on a meeting place to gather in front of your home after escaping. 
  • Make sure your smoke alarms work. Reliable, properly placed smoke detectors are vital to keeping your family safe. Be sure to check your smoke detectors regularly to make sure they are working properly

Take a Home Warranty Quiz. Get matched with an Authorized Partner.