Don McClean wasn’t kidding when he sang, “fire is the devil’s only friend.” The effects of a house fire are devastating and, if you don’t have an effective and well-rehearsed plan for escaping your home in the event of a structure fire, you could lose more than just your possessions.
During the five-year period between 2007-2011, the National Fire Protection Association estimated that US fire departments responded to about 366,600 residential structure fires, which caused more than 2,500 deaths, 13,000 injuries, and over $7 billion in damages. Two-thirds of house fires (and 84% of related deaths) occur in single-family homes.
In light of these grim statistics, your friends at Freedom want you to be prepared in case the unimaginable happens. Please take a few moments to read the tips below, and create a fire plan for you and your family. We sincerely hope that you will never have to use your plan, but you’ll sleep better at night (when half of all fire-related deaths occur) knowing that you have one in place.
Have a Plan
Before you ever have to face the reality of a fire, plan for how you’ll manage your escape. Fire moves QUICKLY, and once a fire is under way, you may have as little as one or two minutes to make your escape. Clearly the time to know your plan is before a fire happens.
The National Fire Protection Association recommends that escape planning be a family affair. Pull everyone together and talk about your escape plan. If you live in a house with small children, consider drawing a map of escape exits and placing it in a visible place in their rooms (think of the maps on the back of every hotel door). Specifically, the NFPA suggests:
- Talk to everyone in the home about the plan
- Know how to contact your fire department (911 and the local number)
- Draw a map of your home, and show all the windows and doors
- Make sure every room has at least two ways out
- Pick a meeting place outside the home. It should be in front of your house
- Make sure your house number can be seen from the street
NFPA has a great sample plan available, so be sure to check it out and make your own version with your family.
Sound the Alarm
Smoke alarms are an absolute essential in your fire escape plan. Considering that three out of five fire-related deaths occur in homes without smoke alarms, it’s pretty clear that the simple act of installing one is quite literally a life saver. The NFPA suggests placing smoke alarms inside of each bedroom, outside of each sleeping area and on every level of the home—including the basement.
Change the batteries when you change the clocks for Daylight Savings, and be sure all of your alarms are properly installed and in proper working order. A handy guide to installing and maintaining smoke alarms is available here.
Know the Exits
Walk through your home from top to bottom, and note where all the exits are. If you’re trapped in the attic during a fire, do you have a way out? What about the basement? If the bottom floors are engulfed, can you escape from the second story? All of the windows and doors in your home should open and close easily—you should be able to use them to get outside! Make sure you don’t have a lot of junk, debris, boxes, or clutter near the exits.
Do the Drill
Once you have your fire escape plan in place, practice! Make a regular habit of talking with your family about the escape plan, and ask questions (especially of your kids) to ensure that everyone remembers the plan and how to execute should the unimaginable happen.
Remember: soldiers in combat don’t think about what to do in a crisis; they react according to their training. Think of your fire escape plan like safety boot camp for your family. Make sure everyone in your house knows the drill and is prepared to act on their training in case of emergency.
Teach Your Children Well
Make sure your kids know how to call for help in an emergency. Have emergency numbers clearly posted and instruct your kids on how to dial 9-1-1 and/or the local fire department. You kids should also know whom to ask for help in case you are not there, so be sure you have a backup plan with a trusted neighbor or nearby relative, and make sure your kids know the plan.
If your kids are old enough, you can also teach them how to use a fire extinguisher.
If you’re looking for a fun way to introduce the concept of escape planning to your kids, check out this great video!
Get the Hardware
When planning your escape, remember to include items like escape ladders (for multi-story dwellings), fire extinguishers, and most importantly, smoke alarms. There are a lot of products out there to choose from, so be sure to do your research and get the best for you and your family
Remember: if there’s a fire, get outside and STAY outside. Your life is more important than anything you own.