According to the U.S. Fire Administration, a small home fire can get out of the control and become a major inferno in about 30 seconds. Because fires are so dangerous, it’s important to have a family escape plan prepared that will get you outside quickly. Take some time to prepare your family by following these tips:
Homeowners: Check Smoke Detectors Regularly
Create a schedule that helps you remember to check the batteries on your smoke-detectors. Teach your kids how to test the device and recognize the sound. As parents, you know that your children should know that when the alarm goes off, it’s time to enact your escape plan. Fire safety starts with awareness and education, so your kids need to be up to speed.
Install a smoke detector in every room, on every floor just and outside sleeping areas. The latest housing code laws require that new homes have a system of smoke detectors in which all the alarms sound, even if only one identifies smoke.
Dads & Moms: Inspect Possible Exits
When it comes time to formulate an escape plan, parents should start by seeking out all possible exits, including windows. House fires spread and grow unpredictably, so a door might not be an escape option. Consider printing a floor plan of your house and marking the exits and smoke detectors. For example, parents can put Xs over the windows and circles over the doors. Find at least two ways out of each room of your home. Get the kids involved by asking for suggestions and having them write on the floor plan.
Parents: Teach Kids to Check for Safety
Some exits could be hazardous during a fire either because flames or poisonous smoke is present. Teach the kids what to do in either case. If they are in a room with a closed door, they should place the back of their hand against the door. If the door is hot, then there is likely fire on the other side and they should seek a new escape route. However, a door that’s cold to the touch is an ‘all clear’ to proceed.
Practice crawling with the kids, imagining that smoke hangs overhead. Teach them that the smoke rises, so crawling is safest way to avoid breathing the toxins. Crawl to each of your exit routes when you practice the plan.
Families: Decide on a Meeting Place Outside
Pick a memorable location a block or so from your house where you will all meet once you’re safely outside. The rendezvous can be a park, light post or street corner that you all know. When you arrive, take a head count to be sure everyone has arrived safely. Then you can call 911. Do not return to your home once you and the kids are outside. You can let firefighters know that a pet didn’t make it out, but do not go back for it yourself.
Purchase Escape Ladders
You can purchase collapsible ladders that store beneath a bed or in a closet. Should you or the kids have to exit your home through a window, the ladder will help you do so safely. Only buy a device that has been certified by a nationally recognized safety-testing laboratory. Teach your kids how to use the ladders properly.
Kids: Practice the Escape Plan
Practice your plan several times a year so that escaping a fire becomes second nature. If your entirely family instinctively knows what to do then you are all more likely to make it out all right. Be sure to practice both escape routes during night and day. Use a stop watch to time how long it takes everyone to make it to the rendezvous. Ideally, you want it to be a matter of seconds.
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