Home Escape Planning

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Imagine your home is on fire and you need to get out fast! Would you and your family know where to go and what to do? Smoke from even a small fire can fill a home in seconds, obscuring your vision, and leaving you lost inside your own home. Fire can block your usual exits, forcing you find other ways out. That is why it is so important to know what to do before a fire starts. You can survive a fire in your home if you plan and practice your escape! 

Creating A Home Escape Plan

  • Using graph paper, draw a floor plan that includes all the rooms in your home.
  • Identify two ways out of each room (excluding closets and bathrooms). Discuss escape routes with everyone in your home.
  • Designate a meeting place outside your home where you and your family would meet in the event of fire.

Once you know two ways out of each room and have a designated meeting lace, you have a home escape plan! 

Practicing Your Home Escape Plan 

It is important that you practice your home escape plan with all members of your household to be sure everyone will know what to do if a fire breaks out. To practice your home escape plan:

  • Have an adult activate a smoke detector by pushing the “test” button.
  • When you hear the smoke detector, get down low and crawl to the nearest exit to practice what to do if you encounter smoke.
  • If you come to a closed interior door, feel the door with the back of your hand to see if it is hot. If the door is hot, don’t open it – try to find another way out. If the door is not hot, open it slowly and check for smoke before proceeding out.
  • Close doors behind you as you escape to slow the spread of smoke and fire.
  • Once you leave your home, meet all members of your household at your designated meeting place.
  • Have an adult either bring a portable or cellular telephone to your designated meeting place (or go to a neighbor’s house) and practice calling 9-1-1. Never call 9-1-1 if there is not a genuine emergency.

Remember to practice your home escape plan at least twice a year. The next time you practice, have family members pretend their usual way out is blocked by smoke or fire and have them practice using a secondary means of escape. 

Be Prepared for Fire

Install smoke detectors on every level of your home, including the basement, and outside each sleeping area. Test smoke detectors once a month and replace the batteries at least once a year (or whenever the detector “chirps” to signal low battery power). Replace any smoke detector that is more than ten years old. For more information about smoke detectors, please visit our Information About Smoke Detectors web page. Also, if you live in the City of Fairfax and need smoke detectors for your home, please visit our Free Smoke Detectors web page.

  • Consider purchasing fire escape ladders if bedrooms are on upper floors.
  • Make sure that windows and screens open easily. Teach everyone in the household how to unlock and open all windows and doors.
  • If your windows have security bars, equip them with quick-release devices.
  • Consider installing an automatic fire sprinkler system in your home. Sprinklers can control or extinguish fires faster than it takes the fire department to arrive.
  • Practice! Hold home fire drills at least twice a year. 

If You Live in an Apartment Building 

  • Learn and practice your building’s evacuation plan.
  • Leave immediately if you hear the fire alarm.
  • Know the location of all building exits and fire alarm “pull” stations.
  • Count the doors between your apartment and the nearest stairwell – you may have to find the stairwell in a smoke-filled hallway.
  • Use the stairs – never use elevators during a fire.
  • Never go back inside once you have made your escape.
  • React immediately if you are trapped. Seal vents and cracks around doors with duct tape or wet cloths. Call 9-1-1, tell them where you are, and signal from a window with a flashlight or light-colored cloth. Try to keep exterior windows and doors shut – opened windows may actually draw smoke into your apartment.

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