How to Set Up a Family Fire Escape Plan

When your kids learn about fire safety at school, they may get excited about getting the family ready in case of an emergency. They might come home wearing "Jr. Fire Department" badges and practicing how to stop, drop, and roll. But your child's enthusiasm should get you thinking about fire safety for your family. Do you know what your family would do in the event of an emergency?

Take some time to prepare your own family fire escape plan so if the worst does happen, your family is ready.

1. Draw a diagram of your house.
Especially if you have children, it helps to draw a floor plan of your home with exits clearly marked. Have a family activity where you discuss with your children the importance of leaving your home quickly if the fire alarm sounds. Have your children trace an exit route with their fingers on the diagram.

Then walk with them through the house, using the diagram as a reference. Post the diagram in a prominent place where your children can see it.

2. Find two ways out of each room.
Show your children how to leave each room in your home. If they are old enough to open doors, show them how to check for fire in adjoining rooms before exiting.

Show your kids how to feel a door for heat with the back of their hands. If the door is hot, they should not open it. If the door is cool, they can check the door handle for heat. If the door itself and the door handle are both cool, your kids can open the door and leave the room to the main exit. If the door or door handle are hot, your kids need to find another exit from the room.

The second exit is usually a window. Show your kids how to safely open windows and climb out. If your children's rooms are on the second story, or they are too young to climb out the window, teach them to call for help. They can shout as loud as they can or call 911 if necessary.

3. Pick a meeting place outside your home.
Decide as a family where you will all meet in the event of an emergency. Most families choose the front of their house. Explain to your kids that you choose a meeting place outside to be safe from the fire. Stress the importance of meeting in the same place as the rest of the family so you know they're safe from the fire.

4. Place smoke alarms throughout your home.
You should install smoke alarms inside every room where a member of the family sleeps. You should also have a smoke alarm on each level of your home. Many families also place smoke alarms near the kitchen or fireplace, where fires are more likely to get started.

Test your smoke alarms every six months to ensure they are working properly. Replace the batteries once a year.

5. Check that doors and windows open easily.
Make sure that none of your doors or windows are too difficult to open. Show your children how to unlock the windows in an emergency. Show them how to kick out the mosquito netting to exit your home by the window. If you keep an interior door locked, be sure that the key is nearby so you can easily access it in an emergency.

If your doors and windows do not easily open or are broken or painted shut, have them fixed as soon as possible. You may need to install new windows that can be easily opened.

6. Post the fire department emergency number prominently.
Teach your children to dial "911" in an emergency. However, you should also post local emergency numbers on the refrigerator or another prominent place.

Carefully instruct your children to only dial emergency numbers during an emergency, and only if no adults are available. They should focus on leaving the house as soon as possible.

7. Practice your fire escape plan.
Hold fire drills for your family every six months. Fire departments advise making your fire drill as realistic as possible. If your children are old enough, you can hold surprise fire drills. Set off your fire alarm and have your children "escape" from their bedrooms and meet in the family meeting spot.

Use a stopwatch to time your family and see how fast the whole family meets at the meeting spot. Report to your family how quickly you responded in an emergency so they can be proud of their progress.

When you and your family are prepared for a fire or other emergency, you can rest easily. Practice these emergency steps with your children so they know what to do when the time comes. Contact Astro Guard Alarms to learn more about fire alarms and safety procedures.