How to Create and Practice a Home Fire Escape Plan

A family looks at their home from the curb.
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Talking about fire safety with your family may not make for the most pleasant dinner conversation. Though it can be a frightening subject, having those tough conversations — and working together to create a family escape plan — could mean the difference between life and death if the unthinkable ever happens.

According to the American Red Cross, there are several things you can do to prepare for a fire in your home, including:

  • Create a communication plan so everyone knows how to contact one another in the event you’re separated
  • Have practice drills at least two times each year
  • Install smoke alarms according to guidelines and test them often
  • Let your children hear what your smoke alarms sound like, and make sure they understand that’s when it’s time to initiate your escape plan
  • Practice “Stop, Drop and Roll”
  • Put a plan in place that includes two escape routes from every room and a safe place to meet outside
  • Talk about the importance of dialing 911 as the first step

Involve the Whole Family

Planning your escape should involve everyone in your family. Sit down together and draw a map of the inside of your home. It’s an excellent way to get children engaged in the process without creating fear and anxiety. Draw two exit routes out of each room on the map and a path outside from each exit. This will help everyone visualize the escape routes and ensure you have a clear plan in place.

Practice Makes Perfect

A fire can start anywhere at any time, so it’s essential to practice your home fire drills a couple of times a year. Always practice your escape plan at different times of the day or night and try different ways each time. You can follow these simple steps to create your own fire drill:

  • Have your children go to their bedrooms to wait for the drill to start
  • Put one adult in charge of triggering the smoke detector
  • Sound the alarm and, using a timer, see how long it takes everyone to reach your safe spot (your goal should be everyone reaching your safe place in under two minutes)

Prepare Your Children

While we all expect younger children to become scared and confused during an emergency, we sometimes forget the anxiety we can cause just talking about the possibility. Start the conversation by sharing that it’s scary for adults too, and let them know it’s okay to let their feelings out. The more you talk about emergency preparedness, the more they’ll come to understand it’s importance, and the less anxiety they’ll experience.

During your conversations, be sure to emphasize that they:

  • Shouldn’t be afraid of firefighters who are there to help them
  • Should get low where the air is less smoky
  • Should never go back inside a burning building for any reason
  • Should “Stop, Drop and Roll” if their clothing catches on fire

The Best Laid Plans Can Save Lives

While it’s unlikely you’ll ever have to escape from a burning home, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Taking a few minutes to create an escape plan and to practice it from time to time can protect you and your loved ones.

Protecting your whole health means being prepared for any emergency (which can happen anywhere at any time). And to ease your mind, consider taking a minute to know where to go if you or a family member needs emergency medical help. Our Emergency Department location finder is a good place to start.

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