Fire safety is important and making an escape plan is crucial during the onslaught of a hazardous event.
If a fire strikes your home, would you know what to do? Would your family members? According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in 2014 there were an estimated 367,000 reported home structure fires in the U.S. with 2,745 associated civilian deaths. It’s important for every home to have a clearly communicated escape plan to avoid tragic loss of life in the event of fire.
At-Home Fire Safety Plan Tips
Hold a family meeting to talk about fire safety. Present the facts, but in a non-threatening way to avoid frightening children. Help them to see that information and planning actually gives them power in case of emergency. Sparky.org has a fire prevention checklist and other activities to help get kids involved and interested in safety planning. The Red Cross also has the Monster Guard mobile app that helps teach children about home emergencies. Check with your local fire department to see if you can visit the fire station to help children see how prepared emergency responders are in your area.
• Together, walk through your home and talk about possible exits and escape routes that you could take in the event of a fire. Discuss what would happen if a fire occurred during daylight hours and if one occurred at night, when the family was asleep.
• Draw up a floor plan of your home, and indicate two potential ways out of each room using windows and doors. NFPA has a downloadable escape planning grid that you can use, and a downloadable brochure about keeping escape routes clear. The Red Cross also offers this printable home fire escape plan in English and in Spanish.
• With your family, talk about the importance of smoke alarms and how they work. Point out the location of each one in your house, and and test the alarms so that family members are familiar with how they sound when triggered.
• If your home has infants, toddlers, older adults, or disabled family members, make sure your escape plan has people who are assigned to assist them in case of emergency.
• For second story rooms, make sure that every family member has access to emergency escape fire ladder equipment that can be used from windows. Practice retrieving and using the ladders, always with adult supervision.
• With your family, select an outside meeting place well away from the home to gather after an escape.
• Practice evacuating your home as quickly as possible. Hold practice fire drills that simulate both daytime and nighttime emergencies. Rehearse touching closed doors and door knobs or handles to see if they are hot from fire, and how to stay in place and seal the room as much as possible if fire prevents escaping a room. Discuss how to call the fire department or signal from a window to let responders know where you are if you can’t get out. Practice escaping halls and rooms by crawling low to avoid smoke if needed.
• Make a plan to help pets evacuate safely, too, if possible.
• Stress to all members of your family that, in case of a fire, getting out of the home is the most important goal. Don’t stop to grab valuables when human life is at risk.
• Display your home’s fire safety plan and diagram in a central location so that family members can familiarize themselves with the information.
• Make sure that everyone understands not to re-enter the home until fire personnel have indicated that it is safe to do so.
While you’re developing and practicing your home’s fire safety plan, take a look at your house from the street to make sure that your house number is clearly visible, even at night, so that emergency responders can properly locate your home quickly. This home fire safety checklist from the U.S. Fire Administration and FEMA can help you avoid common household fire hazards, and this emergency preparedness kit list can help you prepare the essentials that your family might need in a disaster situation. In addition, here’s some helpful information from ServiceMaster Restore about what do do after a fire and how to handle smoke damage.
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