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How to escape from a house fire

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Would your family know what to do if they woke up to the sound of an alarm with smoke all around? You need a fire escape plan to get everyone out quickly and safely.

A family gathered around architectural plans.
  1. Make a plan and practice it

    Map out your plan. Mark the exits and say where you’ll meet when you get outside. Call 911 from a safe place and don’t go back inside!

  2. Every family member should know the plan

    Assign someone to help young children and older family members. Tell children not to hide under a bed, in a closet, or in a bathroom. They have to get out and stay out!

  3. Know two ways out of every room

    Smoke and heat rise. Crawl on the floor to avoid high heat and toxic fumes. If smoke or fire block an exit, use a window or another route. If you have burglar bars, make sure they have a quick-release mechanism.

  4. Check doors before you open them

    Look for smoke around the frame. Feel the door with the back of your hand. If it’s hot, there’s probably a fire on the other side. Try another way out. Even if it’s cool, there could still be a fire. Open the door a little with your head down and face turned away. Close doors behind you to slow the fire’s spread.

  5. Have a plan for upper stories

    Don’t use elevators—fire can disable them and trap you. If you live in a high-rise, find the fire escape and know how to use it. On the first floor, go out windows feet first. Don’t go out a window any higher than one story except as a last resort. If you must go out a second-story window, grab the ledge and let yourself hang down as close to the ground as possible, then drop.

  6. Make practice fun

    Have a fire exit drill and get everyone in your home involved, including children. Have someone watch the drill and time it. Practice with an exit blocked or add challenges you might see in a real fire. Practice the plan until it’s automatic for everyone.

  7. Keep smoke alarms ready

    Test smoke alarms every month. Make sure you have one on every floor, in hallways outside sleeping areas, and in each bedroom. Change smoke alarm batteries twice a year or get 10-year batteries. Replace alarms more than 10 years old. Consider getting models with voice alerts and carbon monoxide alarms.

Resources

 

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Last updated: 5/24/2022