Tips: Plan And Practice A Family Fire Drill

Fire safety and survival begin with every member of the household being prepared and knowing what to do in a fire emergency. The Home Safety Council recommends the following guidelines for developing and practicing a home fire escape plan to ensure a quick and safe escape.

  • Make a fire escape plan for your family. Sketch out a map of your home, including all rooms, windows, interior and exterior doors, stairways, fire escapes and smoke alarms. Make sure that every family member is familiar with the layout.
  • Make sure windows and doorways open easily. Make sure stairs and doorways are never blocked. Look for things that could slow down your escape. Move or fix them.
  • If you have security bars on doors and windows, have a "quick-release" latch on the inside. This makes it easy to get outside in an emergency. Make sure everyone in your family knows how to use the latch.
  • Find two ways out of every room - the door and maybe the window. You might need an escape ladder to get out of upstairs bedroom windows. If so, they should be part of your fire drill. Practice hooking the ladder onto the window sill, and simulate deploying it out the window. Only release the rungs during an actual emergency. Select two escape routes from each room and mark them clearly on the plan.
  • Children and many older adults will need help escaping a fire. Plan for this. Know who needs help and pick someone to help them. If anyone in the household has a hearing impairment, purchase special smoke alarms that use strobes and/or vibrations to signal a fire.
  • Have a place to meet in front of your home. Use a portable phone or a neighbor's phone to call 911. Once you get out, stay out. Do not go back inside for any reason.
  • Make copies of the escape plan sketches and post them in each room until everyone becomes familiar with them.
  • Practice makes perfect. Every second counts during a real fire. Hold family fire drills frequently and at various times until the escape plans become second nature. Once you've mastered the escape process, hold a drill when family members are sleeping so you can test each family member's ability to waken and respond to the smoke alarm.
  • Young children might sleep through the sound of the smoke alarm. Be prepared and assign a family member to wake children for fire drills and in a real emergency.

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