Statistics show that between 2010 and 2014, an average of 7 people died every day in the United States because of home fires. In 2015, the Red Cross launched a campaign to limit the injuries and deaths caused by home fires by up to 25% by 2020. As part of this campaign, the organization has asked people to perform 2 life-saving tasks: make sure their smoke alarms work, and create personalized fire escape plans for their families. In the terrifying and unfortunate event of a home fire, people who haven't prepared a plan can suffer from panic, which leads to the loss of valuable seconds. Research shows that you may only have 2 minutes to escape once a fire has started in your home, so every moment counts. Here, we'll take a look at how families can implement their own fire escape plans to minimize danger and limit catastrophic outcomes.
Preparing Your Home for a Potential Fire
Often, we don't decorate our home with the possibility of a future fire in mind, but ensuring that your home has certain features in case of an unexpected blaze can mitigate some of your risk. For instance, installing dual-sensor smoke alarms inside bedrooms, outside of sleeping areas, and in other crucial areas can help save lives. Unfortunately, 3 in every 5 home fire deaths occur in properties without working smoke alarms. Besides installing and checking smoke alarms regularly (every month), it's important to have fire extinguishers present within the home, and to speak to family members about the dangers of fire. Outlining the risk with your loved ones can ensure that they take your fire escape plan seriously. It can also be beneficial to install a small fireproof safe in your home, where you can store crucial valuables and documents. This reduces the risk of someone trying to run back into the home for money or insurance information.
Plan Various Ways to Get Out of Each Room
Once you've finished preparing your home for the event of a fire, it will be time to start thinking about your escape plan. Every second counts in the event of a fire, and escape plans will help you to evacuate the home quickly. Bring together everyone in your household and develop a plan by walking through your home and inspecting possible escape routes and exits. Households with children may also consider drawing up a floor plan of the home. Try to find 2 ways to escape from each room, as this will ensure that if fire blocks the primary option, there will be an alternative. Additionally, remember that if there are security bars on your windows or doors, those bars will need to have emergency releases installed for quick access in an emergency.
Put Your Plans to the Test
It's not enough to simply have a fire escape plan available, you also need to make sure that you can effectively put that plan into action. Research from the Red Cross has found that less than 1 in 5 families with children between the ages of 3 and 17 have practiced their fire plan. Testing and refining your home escape plan will help make sure that your family is more prepared in the event of a real fire. Practicing your plan will allow you to pinpoint potential problems with your strategy before a real fire can occur. For instance, if your kids sleep on an upper level, they may need a roll-up escape ladder in their room. On top of that, you'll need to make sure that they have practiced climbing up and down that ladder. Additionally, it's crucial to make sure that children and other individuals can awaken to the sound of a smoke alarm. You may need to implement additional measures for people with hearing difficulties.
Make Sure There's a Post-Fire Meeting Place
When you're finalizing your fire escape plan with your family, it's important to make sure that you have a meeting place where everyone can get together after an evacuation. Remember to teach all family members that they should remain outside of the home once they have evacuated. Inform firefighters about missing people when they arrive, as these individuals have the skills to perform rescues without risking additional lives. Choose 2 meeting spots in case your preferred location turns out to be unsafe. The sidewalk is a good example, because this is where fire trucks will arrive. Only when the flames are fully extinguished can you consider returning to the home to retrieve insurance information from your fireproof safe.