A home fire escape plan helps everyone in your household to know how to safely exit your home in the event of a fire and where to go. None of us like to think about it happening to us, to our home. But “U.S. fire departments respond to an average of one home fire every 86 seconds," according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
The NFPA has a wonderful resource for you to create a Home Fire Escape Plan. There is a place to sketch the floor plan of your house. Then you can find and mark the exits and pathways to safely leave in the event of a fire.
If you have kids, it is especially important for them to understand the plan and to practice it several times. The NFPA recommends practicing it twice a year.
Your home fire escape plan usually starts with the sound of the smoke alarms going off.
1. Maintain Your Smoke Alarms
Did you know having smoke alarms in your home cuts your risk of dying in a fire in half? Smoke alarms are a small investment at about $10 a piece.
There should be one on every level of your home, one inside each bedroom, and near all other sleeping areas.
The batteries of your smoke alarms should be replaced when you change your clocks. That’s twice a year. Most use a 9 volt battery. It is very inexpensive to change the battery, especially compared to the cost of a fire claim.
Test smoke alarms monthly. Replace any alarms more than 10 years old.
2. Teach Your Kids About Smoke Alarms
Teach your children what a smoke alarm is and what it sounds like. Even adults don’t like the noise, but to a small child, imagine how much louder the alarm really is. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to include them in home safety checks.
Test your smoke alarms while the whole family is home. Maybe have the kids cover their ears the first time. Then do another test with their ears uncovered. Next, have everyone go to their respective bedrooms and do another test. Then they know how it sounds from their rooms.
It’s going to be scary at first. But as you teach kids not to be scared by the sound, hopefully they will be more prepared to respond to it safely.
3. Make Your Home Fire Escape Plan
We know if the smoke alarm goes off to get out of the house. But how do you get out? And where do you go? Now it’s time to make your Home Fire Escape Plan to find safe ways to exit your home in the event of a fire.
- Find two ways out of every room. This is usually a door and a window.
- Draw a path to get from each room exit outside.
- Choose an outside meeting place for everyone to go to. Your meeting place needs to be far enough away from the house that it’s safe, but close enough that it’s easy to get to. It should also be in front of your house, or in the direction of the nearest road.
4. Practice, Practice, Practice!
Once everyone knows what the alarm means and sounds like and you have a plan, then it’s time to practice your home fire escape plan.
- Touch the doors before you open them to see if they’re warm.
- Store a fire extinguisher next to a parent or adult’s bed so it’s readily available.
- Walk to your meeting place in the daytime and after dark. Everything looks different in the dark.
If it’s a real event, there’s a certain amount of panic in everyone. Trust me, I know. That’s why it’s so important to have a home fire escape plan and to practice that plan. It’s difficult to think clearly in an emergency situation. And even more difficult to make a plan in that moment to ensure safety. It’s worth every minute of planning and practicing to keep you and your loved ones safe in the event of a fire.
Download your free Home Fire Escape Plan worksheet to get started.