Plan Your Escape
Sit down with your family today and make a step-by-step plan for escaping a fire. Draw a floor-plan of your home, marking two ways out of every room. Discuss the escape routes with every member of your household. Agree on a meeting place outside your home where every member of the household will gather after escaping a fire to wait for the fire department. This allows you to count heads and inform the fire department if anyone is missing. Practice your escape plan at least twice a year. Remember, a fire drill is not a race. Get out quickly, but carefully. Make your fire drill realistic. Pretend that some of the exits are blocked by fire and practice using alternative escape routes. Pretend that the lights are out and that some escape routes are filling with smoke.
Make sure everyone in the household can unlock all doors and windows quickly, even in the dark. Windows and doors with security bars need to be equipped with quick-release devices and every household member needs to know how to use them.
If you live in an apartment building, use the stairways to escape. Never use the elevator during a fire. Some high-rise buildings may have evacuation plans that require you to stay where you are and wait for the fire department. Be sure everyone in your household knows the escape plan for your building. If you live in a two-story home and you must escape through a second-story window, be sure there is a safe way to reach the ground. Make special arrangements for children, older adults, and people with disabilities. Household members who have difficulty moving should have a phone in their sleeping area and, if possible, should sleep on the ground level.
Doors need to be tested before opening them. While kneeling at the door, reach up as high as you can and touch the door, the knob, and the crack between the door and its frame with the back of your hand. If the door is warm, use another escape route. If the door is cool open with caution. Put your shoulder against the door and open it slowly. Be prepared to slam it shut if there is smoke or flame on the other side. If you are trapped, close all doors between you and the fire. Stuff the cracks around the doors to keep out smoke. Wait at a window and signal for help with a light-colored cloth or a flashlight. If there is a phone in the room, call 9-1-1 and tell them exactly where you are.
In case of fire, don't stop for anything. Leave the building immediately and go directly to your meeting place and then call 9-1-1. Crawl low under smoke. Smoke contains deadly gases, and heat rises. During a fire, cleaner air will be near the floor. If you encounter smoke when using your primary exit, use an alternate escape route. If you must exit through smoke, crawl on your hands and knees, keeping your head 12 to 24 inches (30 to 60 centimeters) above the floor.
Once you are out, stay out. Don't go back inside for any reason. If people or pets are trapped, the firefighters have the best chance of rescuing them. The heat and smoke of a fire are overpowering. Only firefighters have the training, experience, and protective clothing and equipment needed to enter burning buildings.
Install Smoke Alarms
More than half of all fatal home fires occur at night while people are sleeping. Smoke alarms sound an alarm when they sense smoke from a fire, alerting people before they are trapped or overcome by smoke. Install smoke alarms outside every sleeping area and on every level of your home, including the basement. Be sure to test your smoke alarms monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Replace your smoke alarms every 10 years. For complete home protection, consider installing an automatic fire- sprinkler system.