If a fire occurs in your home, you may only have a minute or two to get yourself and your family to safety. It's not a lot of time, is it? Making a fire escape plan, however, will make you prepared for this type of emergency. Putting one of these together can make a huge difference if a home fire every occurs – because a few seconds can literally be life altering. Here's what to do.
1. When you put your plan together, gather the whole family to do it. Particularly be sure to include any children in the household – doing so ensures they a) feel involved and b) will help them to remember what you are going over. Walk through your home together and inspect all exits and escape routes (windows, doors, etc) to decide which way to go in case of a fire. Mark TWO exit routes, plus, mark the location of each smoke alarm. It's helpful (especially if you have children) to draw a floor plan of your home and marking things that way. Take into account the needs of everyone in your household. Have young children? They may not wake up to the fire alarm or be able to escape on their own, so assign someone to help them. Likewise with any other family members who may not be very mobile. Then assign a back-up person in the case the official assignee isn't home.
2. Make sure all escape routes are clear and doors/windows can be easily opened. If any windows or doors have any kind of security bars or locks, be sure to have an emergency release device inside so they can be opened immediately if necessary. Since those emergency releases only open from the inside, you're not compromising on your security but rather ensuring it in the case of fire.
3. Go outside and check that your house number is easily visible and can be seen by emergency responders if needed. If it's not, fix it!
4. Check the smoke alarms. (Hey, don't you roll your eyes at us for reminding you to check your smoke alarms yet again!)
5. Choose a meeting spot outside the home for when everyone has escaped. Make sure it's a safe distance away from your house (say, a neighbor's yard); make sure everyone is aware of where that spot is; and mark it on your floor plan.
6. The adults will already know to call 911, so be sure that any children know the emergency number as well.
7. Practice makes perfect, so practice your escape plan at least once a year. (We promise you don't have to go so far as setting off the smoke alarms or anything dramatic. Just tell everyone when to go and make sure everyone does what they should!)
8. Always have a Plan B. Fires are unpredictable things. It may turn out that your escape route has been blocked somehow. If that's the case, then what do you do? Plan B. Have an alternate escape handy if you're able and if you can't get out? Close all the doors between you and the fire, place a towel under the door, and go to an exterior-facing window.
It can be scary thinking about something like a home fire actually happening to you and your family, but planning ahead will keep you much safer than if you didn't. It's easy to do, and could be the difference between life and death. Make your fire escape plan today – don't wait!
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