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Elements of a Fire Escape Plan

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

Why it is so important to develop a fire escape plan for your household? Fire is hot, but the fire is not likely the greatest threat to life. Smoke is the killer. The smoke in a house fire is very toxic and in high concentrations can overcome an individual with as little as one or two breaths. The smoke is also hot, very hot. Research shows that during a fire the temperature on the floor may be 100 degrees, Fahrenheit, but toward the ceiling, can easily climb to 600 degrees and even get as high as 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. People think of fire as being bright, and illuminating, the truth is when fire and smoke envelop a home they create a very dark environment making it almost impossible to see. Experts say these conditions can manifest themselves quickly, in as little as two minutes. These realities make it essential to have a plan in place for a quick escape. There is simply no time to assess and plan while the fire is building.

The plan:

  • Draw a Diagram of our home and indicate 2 ways out for each room, usually a door and a window, make sure the paths are clear.

  • Make sure there are smoke detectors on every level and outside every bedroom in the home.

  • Have a plan A, B, and C that take into account blocked or unsafe routes and if you are trapped in the room you are presently in.

  • Develop your plan recognizing that some members of the house will need help to execute their escape (some young children and perhaps elderly members of the home)

  • Have a meeting place that is safely outside the home to meet up and count heads.

  • Exit Drills: Plan to review the plan every 6 months in both day and nighttime hours.

  • Consult your local fire department, there maybe area specific consideration.

Points that should be part of the discussion with each family member

  • Teach all family members how to use the emergency call function on cell phones, even if the phone is locked (Apple and Android).

  • Identify what 2nd story windows may open to a secondary roof and eliminates the need for escape ladders, understanding that some children may not be able to manipulate these devices.

  • If you are trapped in a room hang or throw something (bed sheets, plush dolls, etc.) out the window or door. Professional firefighters are looking for these signs and signals that people are trapped in the home.

  • Demonstrate a low crawl to keep away from harmful toxic smoke and heat.

  • Practice feeling your way out of the home, you may have very little visibility during the emergency.

  • Feel doors and knobs with the back of your hand before opening a door. This may indicate that fire is just on the other side.

  • Make sure windows are operable and children know how to open them (practice it).

  • Close doors behind you on your way out to deprive the fire of oxygen and create possible fire stops.

  • Tell your household members to resist collecting valuables and focus on getting out of the home safely.

  • Let children and other household members share their concerns about the plan, in order to mitigate unforeseen problems, fears, and stressors for these individuals.

With the members of your household briefed on your home's fire escape plan you will eliminate the need to create a plan during an emergency, and as a result, save valuable time that could make all the difference. The information given here can help you begin to develop an effective escape plan for your home. And don’t be afraid to call your local fire department for help building your plan. They may have geographical-specific additions or amendments to the principles we have articulated.

Plan for Safety,

Andy, Senior Editor

Resources: Videos produced by; UL’s Fire Safety Research Institute, City of Edmond Oklahoma, Texas Department of Insurance, St Charles Fire Department Illinois. Ohio Department of Commerce.


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