Escape plan

A Homeowner’s Guide to Making a Fire Escape Plan

By HOM Editor
August 2020

After spending an extensive amount of time and effort into finding your perfect dream home, you’ll want to take any precautions possible to keep both your home and your family safe. As a homeowner, a new set of responsibilities follow and one of them is creating a secure fire escape plan. Many Americans – approximately 80% actually – aren’t aware that home fires are the most common disaster across the country and simple upkeep such as having an operating smoke alarm can reduce one’s chances of dying in a fire by nearly half.

It may be tempting to hide your smoke alarm away when the incessant beeping begins after a smoky meal is prepared but keep those percentages in mind and protect yourself and those around you. Being prepared will ease a tremendous amount of fear and stress if disaster strikes, so be sure to get started with this helpful guide.

Creating a fire escape plan is step one, but practicing your plan is just as important. The majority of Americans have a plan of escape in case of a fire, but only 47% of those citizens have practiced said plan.

With these simple steps, your initial reaction to a fire won’t be panic, but composure:

First, make your escape plan

If you live with others, there are extra precautions to take as you’re not the only person to worry about getting safely out of the home. If you have young children, be sure to designate who will wake and assist them in the escape plan so there is no confusion or frantic scurrying around the home once the fire begins. The most important factor of your escape plan is speed. It is advised you exit your home in 2 minutes or less.

Each room should have two exits, whether it be multiple doors, windows, or a combination of the two. It’s very possible one exit will be blocked or unsafe, depending on where the fire is spreading, so multiple ways of exiting are crucial. Drawing a floor plan for each floor in your house will help you see each exit more clearly and imagine every possible escape route. Putting together a back-up plan is also a great idea in case something goes awry, such as an adult not being home or stuck in a smoked-out area.

Between practicing many fire drills in school and the familiarity with a fire alarm beeping in the kitchen, it can be easy to disregard the sound for what it is: a warning. Be sure to express to the others in your home how important it is to take fire alarms seriously and inform them of the appropriate steps to take upon hearing them. Determining a safe meeting place a ways away from your home is an important component as well in order to keep everyone in your home on the same track. Another important thing to reiterate is to never go back inside a building that is on fire, even if for valuables or other memorabilia.

Practice your plan biannually

 Two minutes goes by fast, which is why it’s so critical to practice your fire escape plan. Try using a stopwatch to keep track of how fast everyone in your home can depart and continue timing the escape plan until you reach the two-minute mark.

Practicing your plan twice a year is recommended and will help you feel more confident in the chance it’s no longer just a drill one day. There are a variety of ways a fire can start, and they can start anywhere and at any given time. When practicing your plan, anticipate escaping during either the day or night, as well as fleeing through different windows and doors. Practicing each possible option will help you to stay hyper away of your space and assist you in weeding out options that won’t work.

When practicing your fire drill, factor in time to feel doors and doorknobs for heat with the back of your hand and inform your children of this tactic as well. On the occasion that someone has caught fire, exercise stop, drop, and roll.

Check your smoke alarms

Smoke alarms are your homes first line of defense, and their proper operation is something you have complete control over. The cause of fire-related deaths is often breathing in toxic smoke, rather than the fire itself, so ensuring the smoke alarms in your home are working correctly will allow you to get out of your house harmlessly before the problem escalates. Most homes have at least one smoke alarm – 9 out of 10 to be exact – but many of these alarms aren’t working, have dying batteries, or the batteries have been taken out entirely. Time is essential when it comes to a house fire, so be sure to add those extra minutes by owning working smoke alarms and testing them on occasion.

If you have multiple floors in your home, you should have at least one alarm on every floor, even the basement. Important things to keep in mind when installing smoke alarms in your home are to place them high up on the wall considering smoke rises, and also place them near bedrooms so there is no doubt they will wake you if you’re snoozing. Smoke alarms are certainly not an appliance to skimp on either, so seek out long-lasting alarms with lithium-powered batteries and perhaps even a sprinkler system if your home is on the larger side.

Once you have your alarms installed in the appropriate locations around your home, keep up with maintenance to guarantee they’re working accurately when they’re needed. Smoke alarms should be tested at least twice a year, even if you choose a long-life alarm with a 10-year battery, as batteries aren’t the only source for dysfunction when it comes to alarms. There could be faulty wiring, an electronic issue, or the alarm could simply be expired. Manufacturers typically recommend replacing your smoke alarms every 10 years and advise (along with the U.S. Fire Administration) to never unplug your alarm or take the batteries out. The annoyance of some beeping every now and then is a small price to pay to keep you and your loved ones safe.

As a homeowner, your home is not only your pride and joy, but your safe haven as well. Taking all possible precautionary steps to keep you and your family safe will leave you with a sense of comfort and ease knowing you are as prepared as possible if the unfortunate event a fire occurs.


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