Plan Early, Practice Often: Create a Family Fire Escape Plan Today.
When a fire occurs, you and your family have less time than you might think to make a safe exit. It takes as little as 30 seconds for a fire to get completely out of control and your home can fill with smoke in minutes.[Source: US Fire Administration] According to many fire departments including the City of Columbia, Missouri, most residential fires occur between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. when families are relaxing or asleep. So it’s important to know the plan and be able to react quickly to a fire.
Liberty Mutual Insurance cares about your safety and makes it easy for you to make a fire escape plan for your family. The fire smart resources on this page will help guide you through the process.
The Essentials of a Safe Fire Escape.
- Know two ways out of each room. Fire is unpredictable, so having two exits can help you outsmart the fire and get out safely. If your first choice of exits is blocked or unusable, have an alternative in mind.
- Leave immediately. Everything in your home can be replaced – except human life. Resist the urge to take photos, pets, or valuables with you. If a fire breaks out, leave at once and leave all your possessions behind.
- Never open hot doors. Before using a doorway as your exit, feel the door with the back of your hand. If it’s warm to the touch, that means flames could be dangerously close. Go to Plan B and choose another exit.
- Stay away from smoke. Smoke moves quickly and can make it hard to see your way clearly. Its toxic chemicals can make you disoriented and confused.Since heat and smoke rise, stay low to the ground and crawl out to safety.
- Get out and stay out. Once you’re outside, do not go back inside for any reason. Wait for professional help to arrive and keep yourself and your family safely out of the way.
- Pick a safe place to meet. Select an outdoor meeting place in front of your residence that’s easy to find and safely away from fire danger. A large tree or a streetlight pole are good choices for meeting places. Here you can take a head count and wait for help.
- Call for help from outside. Once you’ve made a safe exit, call for help from your family meeting place. Have someone responsible for taking attendance and assign another person to go to a neighboring home for help.
Think it through: plan for special issues!
Every home is different and each family is unique. If your home has one or more of these special fire safety challenges, be sure your family fire escape plan addresses the issue properly.
Young and old family members. Whether you have babies and toddlers or seniors living in your home, make sure they are part of your plan. Ensure babysitters know the family escape routes and emergency phone numbers Older adults, especially those on certain medications, may have trouble reacting quickly or correctly in emergency situations.
Security bars on windows or doors. All security bars or grates should have quick releases located on the inside. Be sure all members of your household know how to operate these safety latches in the event of an emergency.
Apartments and highrises. If one of your emergency exits is a window above ground level, be sure to have a collapsible ladder available (Evaluated by a nationally recognized testing agency such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL) and know how to use it correctly. Never use an elevator in the event of a fire – follow the posted fire escape route, which should direct you to use the stairs or exit through a window to an adjacent rooftop.
- Family pets. One way to protect your family pets is to include them in your fire escape planning. If you must evacuate your home due to fire, evacuate pets if you can do so quickly and safely. Just remember, never go back into a burning building to try and save any animal.
Fire smart escape plan checklist.
A good fire escape plan is simple to create and valuable for practicing family fire safety. To serve your family best, the plan should include the following items and be as detailed as possible.
An accurate diagram of your home. This drawing should show all possible exits as well as your family meeting place. One way to get everyone involved is to have each member of your home – especially children – draw their own diagram and explain it to the family.
Two ways out of every room. Find at least two ways out of each room in the event of a fire. Each exit should be easy to get to and free from clutter or other obstructions that might prevent fast and easy access to it. Whenever you practice your plan, pretend one exit is blocked by heat or fire so family members can react quickly and identify another way out.
- Simple step-by-step directions. Write down a short list of simple fire escape directions and post it in your home where everyone can see it. Be sure to review it together whenever you practice your fire escape plan. It can be as simple as this:
- Drop to your hands and knees to crawl under the smoke.
Check doors for heat using the back of your hand.
Get outside quickly and gather at the meeting place.
Call for help or send someone to call from a neighbor’s home.
Looking for more resources to help you and your family create and practice your Family Fire Escape plan?
American Red Cross
City of Columbia, Missouri Fire Department
US Fire Administration