Prepare for a Fire

Develop a Family Disaster Plan. Please see the Family Disaster Plan section for general family planning information. Home fire-specific planning should include the following:
  • If smoke alarms are not already in place, install them outside each sleeping area and on each additional level of your home in accordance with local codes. Smoke alarms cut your chances of dying in a home fire nearly in half. Smoke alarms sense abnormal amounts of smoke or invisible combustion gases in the air. They can detect both smoldering and flaming fires. The National Fire Alarm Code(r)(NFPA 72) now requires hard-wired smoke alarms in new homes.
  • Draw a floor plan of your home; mark 2 fire escape routes for each room. In thick, heavy, dark smoke it is easy to become disoriented. Creating a floor plan with two routes greatly helps everyone understand the safest routes during a frightening emergency.
  • Consider escape ladders for sleeping areas on the second or third floor. Learn how to use them, and store them near the window. If main escape routes via stairs are blocked by smoke or fire, the windows may be your only alternative. Escape ladders permit quick exits, reducing time spent in smoke-filled, toxic environments while waiting for firefighters.
  • Burglar bars and locks that block outside window entry must be easy to open from the inside. If a key is required to open bars or locks, keep a key near each window to use for fire escape. Quick-release devices are available for security bars. If smoke or fire is blocking the main exit, you must be able to use your alternate routes quickly. Fire deaths have occurred when people were trapped by security bars and were unable to get out and firefighters were unable to get in.
  • Select a safe outside meeting place for everyone to meet after escaping from a fire. Make sure it will be a safe distance from heat, smoke, and flames. Family members may use different escape routes, exiting on different sides of the home. Gathering in a specific meeting place in front of the home will quickly let you know who is out, and allow you to advise firefighters of who may need help and their probable location inside.
  • Conduct a home fire drill at least twice a year with all members of your household. Fires produce thick, dark smoke that irritates the eyes and breathing passages and can cause confusion. People who have become disoriented in fires have been found in closets, stairwells, and laundry rooms, thinking they were exits. Practicing your plan makes the actual response more of an appropriate reaction, requiring less thinking during an emergency situation.
    • Practice alerting other household members. Yell "Fire!" several times during your escape. In a real fire this will alert family members to get out.
    • Practice a crawl-low escape from your bedroom, as if you were crawling under a layer of smoke. Fires produce many toxic gases. Some are heavy and will sink low to the floor; others will rise, carrying soot towards the ceiling. Crawling with your head at a level of one to two feet above the ground above the ground will temporarily provide the best air. Close doors behind you.
    • Practice evacuating the building blindfolded. In a real fire situation, the amount of smoke generated by a fire will most likely make it impossible to see.
    • Learn the emergency number for your local fire department. After leaving your home, you will need to call this number from an outside phone or from a neighbor's house.
    • Teach family members to get out first, then call for help from a neighbor's house or outside phone. Get out of the house, away from toxic smoke and gases. If a portable phone is handy during your escape, you may take it with you, but do not waste precious time looking for one. Use your neighbor's phone, a car phone, or nearby pay phone to call for help.
    • Practice getting out of your home during the day and night. Fire can happen at any time. Practicing your routes at night will help you move more quickly should a fire strike in the dark.
  • Discuss fires with your family. Everyone should know what to do in case all family members are not together. Discussing disaster ahead of time helps reduce fear and lets everyone know how to respond during a fire.