According to the United States Fire Administration, more than 3,500 Americans die in fires each year, with another 18,300 sustaining injuries as the result of a fire. Because the majority of these fires occur in the home, it’s of vital importance that every family has a fire evacuation plan in place. While no homeowner wants to consider the possibility of losing everything they’ve worked so hard to acquire, ensuring that you and your children are armed with the information you need to survive a house fire could mean the difference between an unfortunate event and a truly tragic one.
Making sure that you have taken the proper precautionary measures as a matter of routine maintenance can make a huge difference in situations where every moment matters. Making sure that your home is stocked with the proper equipment is the first step to planning your evacuation route and fire safety plan.
- Smoke Alarms –Your home should be equipped with smoke alarms on every floor and outside of every bedroom to ensure that each member of the family can hear the alarm clearly enough to awaken from a sound sleep, should it go off. The batteries in your smoke alarms should be changed when you reset your clocks for daylight savings time, or more frequently if they begin to emit the chirping noise that indicates low battery power.
- Fire Extinguishers – You should place a fire extinguisher on every floor, including one in the kitchen where cooking fires can quickly get out of control. Upstairs extinguishers should be kept in central locations for ease of access. As an extra precaution, keeping a fire extinguisher near any sources of heat, such as a fireplace or an outdoor fire pit, is wise.
- Emergency Escape Ladders – Houses with more than one level and bedrooms on upper floors should be equipped with an emergency escape ladder in each of those bedrooms. Children should be instructed on the proper use of such ladders when they’re old enough to manage them without assistance.
Making a plan of action for your family to adhere to in the event of a fire can be a difficult task for many reasons, not least of which is a simple reluctance to consider the possibility of losing everything you own in a blaze. Making that plan, however, could very well mean the difference between your family making it out of a burning home intact, or suffering a devastating loss.
- Pick a Meeting Point – For any disaster, natural or otherwise, your family should have a designated meeting point for everyone to converge, should you become separated. Make sure that your children know where to go after they escape from a house fire or other catastrophe, and how to reach that point on their own.
- Choose an Emergency Contact – Choosing an emergency contact, such as a close friend or a member of your extended family, for your children and spouse to call in the event of a fire that leaves you separated can help each member of your family determine that everyone made a successful escape if you’re unable to reach the designated meeting point.
- Determine the Quickest Exit from Each Bedroom – Because older members of the family will almost certainly attempt to assist the younger ones, it’s important that everyone in your family knows the quickest and safest exit from each bedroom in the house.
- Teach Kids More Than One Route – Ideally, your children will be accompanied by an adult as they escape a burning house. Unforeseen events, however, can leave them to make the trek alone. Because of this, it’s imperative that you teach your children how to safely evacuate your home by themselves, and how to choose the best route to do so.
After your evacuation route is decided upon and memorized by everyone in the family, it’s wise to periodically practice your fire evacuation plan by staging regular drills. During these drills, covering the basics of concepts such as “Stop, Drop, and Roll” is advised. Kids should learn how to stay low on the ground to avoid excessive smoke inhalation, to test doorknobs for blistering heat before grasping them, and to close doors behind them as they move from room to room to slow the spread of fire.