In the event of fire, every second counts. And that can make even the most seasoned professionals nervous.
Firefighters are constantly practicing and running fire drills so it becomes routine. Your family should practice the home fire escape plan many times so you commit the escape routes to memory. Then you should continue to practice the escape plan twice a year going forward. That way, when the smoke alarm goes off, your family will execute the evacuation plan as calmly and smoothly as possible.
Put a Plan in Place
Your fire escape plan will depend on where and what type of building you live in. A house, a high-rise and whether you're in a city or rural area will change your plan. Everyone in your home should be made aware of what that means.
1. Install smoke alarms on every level of your home
Do you know how you would escape your home if a fire were to break out? Did you know that by the time the alarm goes off you may only have a few minutes to get out safely?
Smoke detectors are a key component to keeping you and your loved ones safe. According to the National Fire Protection Association “Almost three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms (41%) or no working smoke alarms (16%)”. Smoke detectors save lives.
You should have smoke detectors on every level of our home and outside each sleeping area. Test them monthly and replace the batteries frequently. Never disconnect the batteries in your smoke detector! Many people have died because the batteries in their smoke detectors were not functional or they were removed. “In fires in which the smoke alarms were present but did not operate, two of every five (41%) of the smoke alarms had missing or disconnected batteries”, per the National Fire Protection Association (source).
2. Have a fire extinguisher on each level
Having an extinguisher handy can buy valuable seconds as you are executing your fire evacuation plan. Element is small, unobtrusive and doesn't require inspections or on going maintenance so it is ready whenever you need it.
3. Draw a floor plan of your home
This doesn't need to be an architectural drawing as long as it is easy for every member of your family to understand. It should illustrate the rooms, show all doors and windows. Think of the map on the back of a hotel room door. It's not art but it will show you how to get out in the event of a fire.
4. Find 2 ways out of every room
5. Make sure no windows or doors are obscured
6. Choose a meeting area a safe distance outside of your home
7. Practice moving around low in case there is smoke.
8. Get everyone in your home to practice the fire drill. Yes, even Grandpa.
9. Practice A Home Fire Escape Twice A Year
In the event of a home fire, you will only have minutes to escape. When your entire family understands the fire escape plan and has practiced all the ways to leave a room, they'll be able to leave the burning building as safely as possible and see everyone in your household at the meeting place.
Your House Fire Evacuation Plan If You Live In The City or Suburban Area
If you live in the city or a suburban area, your fire escape plan is fairly straightforward. You will follow all the safety guidelines concerning smoke detectors and their maintenance. Just as in the above examples, you will have a fire escape plan that is practiced with each member of your household.
Create a map of your home and make sure everyone is familiar with it, including all of the exits and your safe meeting place. All of your rooms should have two points of egress, and windows should never be blocked or inoperable. Your exits should all be easily accessible, in good repair and not blocked by furniture etc. Your fire escape plan will include all of the exits of your home and a safe meeting place for your household. Practice your fire escape plan frequently so everyone is comfortable with the steps in an emergency.
Be sure your fire escape plan includes how to exit from each area of your home so no matter where someone is they know how to get out. Practice, practice, practice! Your fire escape plan should be an automatic reflex for each household member.
Your Emergency Escape Plan If You Live In A High-Rise
If you live in a tall building you need to follow the procedures set out by your building manager. Often this information is distributed to your door, posted in common areas, available in the office or posted to the building manager’s website.
Your fire escape plan may include closing your apartment door when you leave, taking the stairs, not using the elevator, meeting at a designated spot in front of the building, and knowing how to use the building’s fire alarm. Many high-rise buildings have an existing fire escape plan and are required by law to test fire systems on a monthly and annual basis. This is a good time to practice your fire escape plan with your family. Always make sure your exit is clear and accessible since it is the only way out of your unit!
Your building will be equipped with smoke detectors in the hallways and common areas, but you will also have them in your unit. You are most likely responsible for maintaining the ones in your unit and to report malfunctioning smoke detectors to your building manager for swift repair or replacement.
Checking your unit’s smoke detectors monthly is key to keeping your family and neighbors safe. A lot of people find it helpful to change the batteries in their smoke detectors twice a year when the clocks change. You can choose whatever schedule works for you as long as you remember to do it. Put it in your phone, write it on the calendar, whatever works.
It’s a good idea to get your kids involved too. Get each family member to participate in the fire escape plan as well as the maintenance of smoke detectors. Practicing your fire escape plan with your kids will allow them to get comfortable with the steps teaching them exactly what to do in a fire emergency.
High-rise fires are especially dangerous. If you live on higher floors, escape ladders may not reach your floor and your descent down the stairwell will take longer. Fires spread more easily between units and even emergency vehicles can take longer to get to you if you live in a densely populated area. Never cover the emergency speaker in your unit! That is how the building communicates with you in the event of a fire. The fire alarm sounds through that speaker but the fire department may also give instructions you will need to hear.
Your Fire Safety Plan
Following these suggestions and having an efficient fire escape plan will go a long way to getting you and your loved ones out of your home quickly to safety in the event of a fire.
In addition to a smoke detector on every floor, you should also have a fire extinguisher on each level for easy access. Element is small and always ready when you need it. Make sure your family knows where they are located throughout your home.
Of course the best fire safety plan is to prevent a fire from getting out of control. At the first sign of smoke or fire, use the Element fire extinguisher, if it is safe to do so! If not, call the fire department and put all your planning and practicing to use!