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How to Escape a Fire

Keep your family safe with these safety tips for escaping a fire.

Family escaping as smokes detector is activated. iStock

Fires can happen unexpectedly, so it's best to prepare ahead of time. Keep your family safe, and follow these tips to create an escape plan unique to your home and loved ones’ needs.

Tips for Creating a Fire Escape Plan

  1. With your family, draw a diagram of your home. Mark all windows and doors and plan two escape routes from each room, one of which should be a door. If the edges, knob, or hinges of a door feel warm against the back of your hand, use your alternate escape route.
  2. Escape from a fire first and then dial 911 (or call the fire department) from a neighbor's house.
  3. Pick an outdoor meeting place that is in view of the front door and at a safe distance from your home. Family members should know to head for the spot immediately and never go back inside for any reason.
  4. Every home needs working smoke alarms on each floor and near each sleeping area. Test them each month and replace batteries at least once a year. Install new smoke alarms every five years. Push a test button to sound a smoke alarm so your family is familiar with the way it sounds.
  5. Check all windows to be sure they open easily. Security bars or safety guards should have quick-release mechanisms that everyone in the house knows how to operate. Replace double-key deadbolts with locks that open from the inside without a key.
  6. If your family sleeps on the house's second floor, consider purchasing fire escape ladders to provide additional exit routes. Many children over age five can use an escape ladder. If you can get to your children during a fire and need to use an escape ladder, help them out of the window first; carry very young children down with you.
  7. Practice crawling during drills. In a real fire, the clearest air will be near the ground. Show children how to crawl on their hands and knees, keeping their heads 12 to 24 inches off the floor.
  8. Teach children not to hide in a closet or under a bed. Tell them they cannot hide from fire and their number one job is to get out of the house.
  9. The ASPCA advises keeping updated stickers on your doors that let police and the fire department know that there are animals in the house in case you are out of the house when a fire starts, especially if your pets are confined to a crate during the day.
  10. Practice the escape route every six months and correct any problems you encounter. Do at least one drill after everyone has gone to bed; the majority of home fire deaths occur between 10 PM and 8 AM.