Keeping your house insured is important – but what about having a plan in place to protect those inside your home in case of a fire? Do you have and practice a house fire escape plan? It could be the difference between life and death in a fire.
While thinking about waking up in the middle of the night to your smoke detector going of and flames lapping through your home is very unpleasant, even scary, thinking about and panning out how you would evacuate your home in this scenario ahead of time could save your life in the event of a fire. It is smart to practice this evacuation plan with those who are inside your home as well so that everyone has the best chance of escaping a house fire.
Most Americans think they would have plenty of time to escape a house fire, but the scary reality is that you could have as little as one or two minutes before being overcome by smoke.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) shows 71% of Americans have an escape plan in case of a fire, but shockingly only 47 % of those have practiced their plan. In a house fire, seconds matter and you don’t want to waste them trying to remember what your plan. A good escape plan has a designated outside meeting place and is practiced at least twice a year by everyone within the home.
Here are some other tips on how to best protect yourself and your family in the event of a fire.
- Install smoke alarms inside and outside every sleeping area and on every level of your home.
- Test your smoke alarms monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Replace your smoke alarms every 10 years.
- Ensure everyone in the household knows the sound of the smoke alarm and what it signifies.
- Ensure everyone in the household can unlock and open all doors and windows, even in the dark.
- If a room has a window air conditioner, make sure there is still a second way out of the room. Windows with security bars, grills, and window guards should have emergency release devices. Make sure you can operate these.
- Conduct family fire drills. Make sure everyone living in the house knows two ways out of every room.
- Pick a meeting place. The meeting place should be a permanent fixture, like a large tree, and should be far enough from the house to ensure everyone’s safety in an emergency.
Children, older adults, and people with disabilities may need assistance to wake up and get out. Make sure that someone will help them.
- Teach your children how to escape on their own in case you cannot help them.
- If the smoke alarm sounds or fire is discovered in your home, get out fast. Close doors behind you as you leave to help stop the spread of the fire.
- Doors need to be tested before opening them. Use the back of your hand to see if the door is warm. If it is, use another escape route.
- Close the door when escaping a fire. A closed door can limit property loss and increase survivability during a home fire.
- If you have to escape through smoke, get low and go under the smoke to your way out.
If you are trapped, close all doors between you and the fire. Stuff the cracks around the doors with clothes or towels to keep out smoke.
- Call the fire department, wait at a window and signal for help with a light-colored cloth or a flashlight.
- Once you are out, stay out. Don’t go back inside for any reason.
- Call the fire department from your safe outside meeting place.
- If people or pets are trapped, notify the fire department and let them handle the rescue efforts.