What is a home fire escape plan?

Household 3 min read

Fire escape planning requires preparation and practice. You’ll need to identify two ways out of every room and be clear about who’s responsible for helping young children or people with physical limitations. It would be best if you practiced the fire evacuation plan for your home at least twice a year. Your family fire escape plan should also identify a safe spot where you’ll gather to keep track of each other and connect with fire and rescue personnel.

What supplies do you need for a home fire escape plan?

Smoke alarms

Smoke alarms are a crucial part of your fire escape plan at home. They can alert you to the presence of fire before you know it’s happening, especially if you’re asleep. Smoke alarms can make a life-or-death difference for you and your family. Be sure that they stay in good working order. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has particular recommendations about smoke alarms.

The NFPA recommends installing smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside every sleeping area, and on every level of your home. The NFPA’s National Fire Alarm Code® requires that all smoke alarms in a home be interconnected. In other words, if one goes off, they should all go off. Check all your smoke alarms at least twice a year. Replace run-down batteries immediately and keep spare batteries in your home so you can instantly make those replacements.

Sprinkler systems

To help prepare you and your family for a fire, consider these additions to your fire protection and defense. Whether upgrading an existing home or making it a requirement of a newly built home, statistics from the NFPA show that home sprinkler systems are worth the investment. They control fires, limit property damage, save lives, and reduce the number of injuries compared to fires in homes without sprinkler systems.

Fire extinguishers

Consider keeping at least one fire extinguisher on every level of your home. In addition, you can find specialized fire extinguishers for your kitchen and your garage. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for maintenance tips and expiration dates. Learn how to use a fire extinguisher.

Duct tape, towels, and sheets

If you can’t escape from a room and need to shelter or defend in place until help arrives, you can use duct tape, wet sheets, or towels to seal or block door cracks and vents. Sealing passageways can slow down or prevent smoke from filling the room.

If you must shelter in place, call 911 and have a flashlight that can shine out of your window to alert rescuers to your location. If you can escape, time is of the essence — get outside to safety and call 911 as soon as possible.

How to create a fire escape plan for your house

You never know where a fire may start in a home, so it’s best to have fire evacuation plans for your home with multiple escape routes and to test them at different times of day and night. Here are the fire escape plan basics you’ll need to consider.

Ensure there are two ways to exit

Ideally, every room should have two ways out in case one is blocked. One of those ways may be a window. In that case, be sure you can open the window (that it’s not painted or otherwise sealed shut).

Add quick release devices to windows

Some windows have bars over them on the outside for security purposes. If so, they should also have a quick-release mechanism to open them from the inside of the home.

Purchase escape ladders and define clear escape routes

For window escapes from rooms above the ground floor, consider keeping an escape ladder at the window or easily findable near the window. Make sure that hallways, stairs, doors, and windows are unblocked and free from clutter. That makes escape easier in general, especially in low-visibility situations.

Check all locks on doors

Ensure you can easily and quickly open a locked door from the inside in an emergency. For locks with deadbolts on the inside, keep the deadbolt key nearby for easy access.

Assign a safe meeting space

Once outside, assemble in an agreed-upon safe space away from home. And whatever you do, don’t try to go back into the house for any reason. At that point, it’s up to firefighters and rescue workers to handle the job.

Assign a primary evacuation leader

For younger children who may need help escaping a fire, be clear about who’s responsible for helping those children and who’s the backup if the primary person isn’t home. For older children, involve them in creating escape plans. Train them to use an escape ladder (practice on a ground-floor window for safety). Teach them about crawling on the floor to avoid smoke and using the back of their hand to gauge the heat level outside a closed door before opening it.

Ready.gov (part of the US Department of Homeland Security) recommends conducting a drill at least twice a year to practice your evacuation plan for a fire at home. And they recommend that you set a goal of getting out of your home and to your safe spot in two minutes or less.

If you want to evaluate how you have prepared your home for fire-related issues, you can get a fire safety inspection. Learn more about how to prevent house fires and what’s involved in fire safety inspections, and why they’re beneficial.

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