When a fire occurs in your home there is no time to waste, your exit strategy must be executed calmly and efficiently. With a well planned escape plan and step-by-step instructions, it should give you and your family or co-workers the best odds of escaping the fire safely. The Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs recommends these steps for preemptive measures, and they even have a escape plan template that you can print out.
Get a Plan Together
Draw a floor plan of your home, marking two ways out of every room – especially sleeping areas. Discuss the escape routes with every member of your household. Agree on a meeting place outside your home where every member of the household will gather to wait for the fire department. This allows you to count heads and inform the fire department if anyone is trapped inside the burning building. Practice your escape plan at least twice a year. Have a fire drill in your home. Appoint someone to be a monitor and have everyone participate. A fire drill is not a race. Get out quickly, but carefully. Make your exit drill realistic. Pretend that some exits are blocked by fire and practice alternative escape routes. Pretend that the lights are out and that some escape routes are filling with smoke – be creative with it!
Make sure everyone in the household can unlock all doors and windows quickly, even in the dark. Windows or doors with security bars need to be equipped with quick-release devices and everyone in the household should know how to use them.
If you live in an apartment building, use stairways to escape. Never use an elevator during a fire. It may stop between floors or take you to a floor where the fire is burning.
If you live in a two story house, and you must escape from a second story window, be sure there is a safe way to reach the ground. Make special arrangements for children, older adults and people with disabilities. People who have difficulty moving should have a phone in their sleeping area and, if possible, should sleep on the ground floor.
Test doors before opening them. While kneeling or crouching at the door, reach up as high as you can and touch the door, the knob and the space between the door and its frame with the back of your hand. If the door is hot, use another escape route. If the door is cool, open it with caution.
If you are trapped, close all doors between you and the fire. Stuff the cracks around the doors with towels or blankets to keep out smoke. Wait at a window and signal for help with a light colored cloth or a flashlight. If there is a phone in the room, call 911 and tell the operator exactly where you are.
Get out Fast
In case of fire, do not stop for anything. Do not try to rescue possessions or pets. Go directly to your meeting place and then call the fire department from a neighbors phone. Every member of your household should know how to call the fire department. Crawl low under smoke. Smoke contains deadly gases and heat rises. During a fire, cleaner air will be near the floor. If you encounter smoke when using your primary exit, use your alternate escape plan. If you must exit through smoke, crawl on your hands and knees keeping your head 12 to 24 inches (30 to 60 cm) above the floor.
It’s also good practice to check the batteries in your smoke alarms monthly. In newer homes the builders should of wired them in linking all of the detectors together, so if one goes off they all go off. More than half of all fatal home fires occur at night while you’re sleeping, which would give you less time to act. Get a plan in place so you’re prepared.