FIRE! Does Your Family Have an Escape Plan?

It's the dead of night. A fire has started in your kitchen and is spreading to the rest of the house. You and your kids awaken bleary-eyed to smoke, heat and flames. Chaos ensues. You've got as little as two minutes to get out safely.

Are You Prepared?

Only one in four American families have created and practiced a home fire drill, even though a residential fire in this country is reported every 77 seconds. These numbers tell us that it's past time for all kids and parents thinking about, developing and practicing home fire escape plans.

"A fire drill in your apartment, condominium or house requires every family member to practice opening the doors and windows necessary to escape," explains John Drengenberg, manager of Consumer Affairs for the nonprofit safety testing organization Underwriters Laboratories Inc. "It also means giving younger children permission to get out of the home on their own, even at night, when they hear the alarm. All family members must be prepared to react when a smoke alarm sounds."

Make a Plan

Along with reminders about installing smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside sleeping areas, and on every level of the home, the NFPA has these recommendations:

Gather your family together and create an escape plan. Walk through the house together, inspecting all possible escape routes and exits.

Write up the plan and, for young children, draw up a simple floor plan (you can print a Home Fire Escape Place grid) showing two ways of escape from each room. Check to be sure all family members can easily open doors and windows designated in the escape plan. Make sure everyone clearly understands the plan.

Designate an outside spot a safe distance in front of your home where all family members can meet after escaping the house.

Have everyone memorize the emergency phone number for the fire department so that any family member can call from a neighbor's house or a cell phone after escaping from a burning home. Don't call the fire department from inside your home; get out first and then call.

Assign an adult (and a backup) to make sure very young children and the elderly are helped out of the house.

Tell all family members that once they're out, they should never go back into a burning building. If someone is missing, alert arriving firefighters.

For more home fire drill planning and practice tips, visit

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