If a fire strikes in your home, you won't have much time to react. Prepare now so you can act quickly in an emergency. Getting out and making sure everyone is safe is the crux of a fire evacuation plan. It doesn't have to be complicated. In fact, simpler is better and fast is key. Follow these steps and practice it during fire drills so you can act immediately if there's a fire in your home.
Create a fire evacuation plan
Preparing your family with safe escape routes and instructions can be a lifesaver in the case of an emergency.
- Sketch a map of your house.
- Familiarize your children with the map by pointing out where each room in the house is. Pasting a photo of each family member inside his or her respective bedroom on the map may help younger children.
- Draw two escape routes from each room — one out a door, one out a window (in case the primary route is blocked).
- Designate a meeting spot a safe distance from the house, such as the mailbox.
- Post the evacuation plan on the refrigerator or a bulletin board to keep it fresh in your family's mind.
Teach and practice periodic fire drills at home
A fire drill every few months will get children interested with the change in routine, and keep adults in practice as well. Practice exactly as you'd do it in real time. Define, step-by-step, what you expect your children to do.
- Start the fire safety training drill by sounding a smoke alarm, so children can recognize the beep as an early warning to fire.
- Leave everything behind and follow the escape route. They should never attempt to pick up toys and personal possessions, or look for their parents, siblings or pets. Sticking to the evacuation plan to get out safely is most important.
- Teach them to stay low to the floor, moving on their hands and knees, if there is smoke in their room. To avoid inhalation, instruct them to cover their face with a pillowcase or shirt.
- Show them how to crawl over to their bedroom door and touch the doorknob first. If it's not hot, they should proceed out the door and exit the house to the safe meeting place outside. If it's hot, they should go to their window and wave a shirt.
- Stop, drop and roll. Practice this important safety move so you can help prevent serious burns if your clothes are on fire.
- Repeat the plan until they have mastered it. With enough drills, you can avoid panic and confusion if a real fire strikes the home.
Talk about next steps, like calling 911. After you have gotten to your meeting space, talk to your children about calling 911. Children old enough to understand the phone should know how to call at the first sign of an emergency. But remember, kids can sometimes think it's funny to prank call 911, so stress to them that it is against the law and carries consequences.
Identify fire hazards in your home with your children
You've equipped your home with all the necessary precautions for a fire, but smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers aren't enough to keep everyone prepared. Equip your family with fire safety knowledge by teaching them about fire hazards in the home and how to react if a fire sparks in the home.
What fire hazards should I discuss with my children?
- Kitchen dangers: Most of the fire hazards in the home are in the kitchen. The most important lesson for young children to learn in the kitchen is that the stove is hot, and they should keep away from it when it's in use. When your children are older and ready to begin cooking for themselves, then you can instruct them further on individual appliance safety and extinguishing cooking fires.
- Matches and lighters: Playing with matches is another major source of home fires. Children as young as two-years-old can strike matches and start fires, so be sure to keep matches and lighters safely tucked away in locked drawers. Teach children not to pick up matches or lighters they may find, but to tell an adult about them immediately.
- Aerosol cans: These can explode if placed near stoves, radiators or other sources of heat.
- Candles: Candles can start fires if placed near flammable materials, and their hot wax can burn skin. Never let children light candles or leave a child unattended with a lit candle. Get in the habit of blowing out any candles before leaving a room.
- Electrical cords: Fraying cords can ignite a fire, so show children how to recognize them.
- Lamps: Explain that paper or cloth over a lamp can start a fire.
- Irons: Warn children to stay away from an iron standing on end.
- Christmas trees: Live Christmas trees can dry out and become highly flammable.