As National Preparedness Month comes to a close, it is time to share the most important way you can prepare your family for a fire-related emergency. A fire escape plan is essential in order to make sure everyone knows what to do and where to go if there is a fire in your house. Here are the steps to make a reliable fire escape plan:
First, Make Sure Everyone Knows the Signs
Does everyone in the family know what a smoke detector sounds like? If you yelled “fire!” would the family take it seriously? Review the signs of fire with the family. Use this opportunity to check the batteries in your smoke detectors, and test them so everyone knows the sound. Agree that yelling “fire!” is only for real emergencies, and must be taken as seriously as the smoke detectors. Remind family members that smoke is an early sign of fire, and if it is present, to alert someone immediately.
Second, Know the Numbers
Do not assume your kids learned about dialing 911 at school. Post emergency numbers on your fridge or somewhere else central in your home. Have the local fire and police department numbers for concerns that are not emergencies, and have 911 on that list. Also include the names and numbers of a couple close family friends or neighbors for children to call if an emergency happens while they are home alone. Program these numbers into each family member’s mobile device also.
Third, Explain the Escape Plan
Outline how to leave the house in the event of a fire. Do a practice run with fire escape ladders for those on the second floor, or explain their route of escape in detail so they understand (for instance, if their window is above the porch). Demonstrate how to crawl close to the ground to stay below the smoke, and decide which exit to use in different scenarios, keeping it as simple as possible. Remind children that their lives are more important than their things, and they must get to safety first.
Fourth, Designate a Meeting Place and Jobs
If there is an emergency, family members should not waste time finding each other before escaping the building. Designate a family meeting place where everyone can go and wait for other family members after escaping. Make sure it is away from the house, a playset or shed in the backyard, or maybe the mailbox if you don’t live on a busy street, are all good landmarks. Give each responsible person a job, for example, the oldest teenager will make the emergency phone calls, the husband will grab the dog, while the wife grabs the infant. Stress that there is never a good reason to run back inside a burning building, even if something special has been left behind, because you could die trying to retrieve it.
Finally, Plan Ahead
Scan important papers and sentimental pictures, then save them somewhere online so you will still have them, and will be less tempted to risk your life saving the only copies you have. Have a fire escape drill a few times throughout the year. Review the basics: stop, drop, and roll if you are on fire, use the PASS method if there is a small fire and you can put it out with a fire extinguisher (Pull the pin, Aim at the fire, Spray the extinguisher, Sweep the hose across the base of the fire). This all takes time, but if you make these preparations a priority, you will never regret the lives you’ll save by investing in safety now.
September is National Preparedness Month, and in honor of this we posted weekly articles about preventative measures you can take to minimize fire hazards around the house. This is the last article in the series, however, you can still read the previous articles by scrolling through our Facebook or Twitter, or checking out the News page on our website. We hope these encouraged heightened safety in your household. Feel free to contact us with any further questions regarding fire and life safety for your home or business.