Learn How to Create a Life Saving
Fire Evacuation Plan for Your Family

Developing a fire evacuation plan is important for ensuring your family's safety in case of a house fire. To develop an effective plan, you should:

  • Identify and chart escape routes from the home
  • Go over the plan in depth with all family members
  • Practice the plan at least every six months
  • Observe all precautions for how to safely exit the home in case of fire

Unfortunately, house fires are a common occurrence, so it's important to prepare your family for what to do in case of a fire in your home. A fire evacuation plan is essential for ensuring that each family member can exit the home and get out of harm's reach in case of a fire.

Here's what you should know about developing a fire evacuation plan.

The first step in a fire evacuation plan is to identify two escape routes from each room of the house. Draw a diagram of each room and use arrows to indicate the two exit paths you have determined. Use a red pen for the primary escape route, and use a different color for the secondary escape route to be used in case the best route is unavailable.

You'll also need to determine a meeting place once all family members are out of the house. Choose a nearby place that all family members recognize, but keep it far enough away from your home to avoid risk of injury or smoke inhalation from the fire. A neighbor's house across the street or at the end of the block are good choices.

Practicing your fire evacuation plan is extremely important. Make sure to go over the plan with all family members, and practice carrying it out at least every six months. The practice should also include climbing down fire escape ladders from second story windows. Make sure each upper level room in your home is equipped with a ladder and that every family member has practice going down the ladder.

Before opening any doors in a fire, each family member should be trained to test the doorknob with the back of their hand. If it's too hot to touch, use an alternate escape route. Always keep a hot door closed; if you open the door, this gives the fire a chance to spread even more.

When putting your fire evacuation plan into motion, stay low to the floor. Burns from fire are only one risk; smoke inhalation is equally dangerous. Since smoke rises, staying close to the floor will provide you with cleaner air to breathe and will reduce the chances that you will lose consciousness due to smoke inhalation.

If you should find yourself without a viable escape route in a fire, keep the door closed and place a towel at the bottom of the door to prevent smoke from coming in underneath. If there is a phone in the room, or if you have a cell phone, call 911. If you have access to a window, wave a brightly colored piece of fabric or other highly visible item.

Impress upon each family member the importance of getting out of a fire fast. Hesitation can be deadly. No one should stop to grab memorabilia, or even to call 911. And never, ever go back into the house once you have safely escaped. As soon as you are out of harm's way, call 911 from a cell phone or a neighbor's phone if fire officials aren't already on the scene. If loved ones are still trapped inside, trained fire fighters have a much better chance of rescuing them than you would if you were to re-enter the home.

And, remember to install smoke detectors and change the batteries regularly! The National Fire Prevention Association recommends installing smoke detectors on ceilings near doorways or stairways. Smoke detectors should also be installed in the hallway on the ceiling and inside each bedroom too. And, don't forget the kitchen. Install a smoke detector on the ceiling in the kitchen too - close enough to the stove, but not too close so that it's a nuisance going off every time you cook!

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