Think of the worst-case scenario of your home on fire. Have you ever thought about what would happen in an emergency situation as you and your family scramble to find a way out of your home when a fire is raging?
That’s a question the National Fire Protection Association hopes you’ll take seriously and be able to answer with a solid plan in place if you ever find yourself facing a fire. Read on to learn why home fire drills are important, how to create one, and what you can do to keep your family safe.
Why you need a home fire escape plan
Did you know that once the smoke alarm starts to go off, you may only have as little as 1-2 minutes to evacuate your home safely? With little time to spare, if you wait until you hear the fire alarm to think about an evacuation plan, it may be too late. Instead, the best thing to do is to come up with a plan ahead of time and practice evacuating until it becomes second nature for your whole family.
This is especially crucial for families with young children, who may need to be taught what to do in the event of an emergency. While children often have fire drills at school, if the fire safety is not practiced at home, they’re apt to think that the same rules do not apply. Especially now that winter is coming – when house fires are more common – you’ll want to make sure that the entire family is prepared for the unexpected.
How to create a fire safety plan
Do a walk-through of your home
The first step to creating a fire safety plan is to do a walk-through of your home with fire safety in mind. During this tour, do your best to identify at least two potential exits out of every room in your home, including through the windows. Then, you’ll want to take the time to make sure that all of the exits are easily accessible and aren’t blocked by any heavy furniture or other obstructions. Finally, if needed, be sure to buy any necessary tools – like collapsible escape ladders that can be used to climb down from higher floors – and put them in place.
Once you have everything set up, do the walk-through again, this time with your family in tow. Point out the potential exits and explain how to use any equipment that you may have purchased.
Go over what to do if a fire happens
Next, it’s important that you’re very clear on what should be done in the event that a fire happens. Afterward, make sure to leave time for your kids to ask questions and to answer them to the best of your ability.
Your fire drill safety plan should involve the following steps:
- Raise awareness: Make sure everyone in the house knows there’s a fire and/or hears the alarm.
- Plan your evacuation techniques: It’s especially crucial to make a plan for family members who need help evacuating the home.
- Escape as quickly as possible: Don’t waste time trying to save a belonging – they can be replaced – you can’t. Find an alternative route in case there is too much smoke or heat.
- Identify where to meet: Pick a spot outside the home where all family members will agree to meet up in the event of a fire.
Run a drill
Once everyone in the family is clear on what to do, it’s time to do a home fire drill. Try to make the experience as realistic as possible by doing it at an unexpected time and sounding a fire alarm. Additionally, you’ll want to allow your children to practice using any equipment you’ve put into place such as fire ladders.
If you’re the person running the drill, you may want to time it. Not only will this give you a sense of how well your family will do in the event of a real emergency, but it can also add an element of fun for the kids and give them incentive to move even faster the next time you practice.
Family fire safety tips and tricks
In addition to your fire evacuation plan, make sure that your family is clear on the following fire safety tips. If you haven’t already, go over them to ensure that each member of your family knows what to do.
- Practice stop drop and roll: Have everyone practice stop, drop, and roll so they know what to do in the event that they catch fire.
- Don’t take anything with you: Remind everyone not to worry about taking their possessions with them in the event of a fire or to go back into the house for anything once they’ve exited.
- Remember to test your smoke alarms: Smoke alarms should be tested at least twice yearly. You’ll want to designate someone in your family to be responsible for this and put a reminder on the calendar.
- Check your fire extinguishers: At the same time, you’ll want to check to see if your fire extinguishers are expired. If they are, you should replace them with multipurpose ones. While kids shouldn’t operate fire extinguishers, all the adults in the house should know how.
- Make fire safety into a game: For younger children, it may be useful to make fire safety into a game. Home Fire Drill Day has some good ideas on how to make this a fun and educational experience.
As a reminder, using a fire extinguisher is as simple as following these four steps:
- Pull the pin
- Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire
- Squeeze the trigger in a controlled manner
- Sweep the extinguisher from side to side until the fire is out