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Home Fire Safety Plan

Family sitting in living room reviewing escape route in case of fire

Home insurance policies cover fire damage, but they can’t ensure your safety if a fire breaks out. If that happens, you may not have much time to escape once the smoke alarm sounds. That’s why creating a home fire safety plan ahead of time is so important. Everyone needs to know what to do if there’s a fire.

Make an Escape Plan

A home fire may seem like a remote possibility, but they happen more frequently than you think. According to the National Fire Protection Association, a home fire is reported in the United States every 89 seconds.

Fires can spread quickly, especially at night when everyone is asleep. That’s because closed bedrooms doors can conceal smoke and heat, leaving you precious little time to escape after you notice the fire. As a homeowner, you should prepare your family for the possibility of such an emergency.

Coming up with a home fire safety plan—and then practicing it—will help you react quickly and calmly. Your level of preparedness could be the reason why everyone escapes and survives. Here are the key parts to any home escape plan:

Find Two Ways Out

Draw a map of your home showing all doors and windows. If possible, plan two ways to escape from each room. If smoke or fire blocks your primary way out, you’ll need a secondary exit. If you need to pass through smoke, get low and go under the smoke. Other tips include:

  • Make sure all doors and windows leading outside open easily.
  • Eliminate clutter on stairs and in hallways.
  • If you live in a 2-story house, decide whether you will escape through a window, roof or balcony. You may even need a portable roof ladder.
  • Print the plan out and share it with everyone who stays in your home.

Establish a Meeting Place

Choose one location outside where everyone can meet after escaping the home. The location should be in front of the home so firefighters can see you, but not too close to the home. Examples include a tree, light pole or mailbox. Other tips include:

  • Once everyone is safe, have one person call 9-1-1.
  • Keep everyone close until firefighters arrive.
  • If someone is missing, immediately tell firefighters.
  • Don’t go back into a burning home for pets.

Practice the Escape Plan

Everyone needs to know your family’s escape plan, so it’s important to practice it as a group at least twice a year. You should practice the plan in the day as well as the night, as most fatal home fires start at night according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Put one adult in charge of running a practice drill and sounding the smoke alarm. Kids should be in their bedrooms when the drill starts. Sound the smoke alarm, start a timer and have everyone evacuate to the designated safe meeting place. Try to make it there in under two minutes.

Here are some things to teach during your emergency drill:

  • How to crawl low to the floor and keep your mouth covered
  • How to escape with your eyes closed to simulate low-visibility conditions due to smoke and darkness
  • How to “stop, drop and roll” if your clothes catch on fire
  • How to test door handles to see if they are hot before opening them
  • Teach kids that they shouldn’t hide during a fire, and how to escape on their own in case you can’t help them

Smoke Alarms Tips

Smoke alarms are the most important part of any home fire escape plan. You should install them on every level of your home and outside each sleeping area. For maximum safety, install interconnected smoke alarms throughout the home. This way, when one sounds, they all sound. Other tips include:

  • Test alarms twice a year by pushing the test button on top.
  • Change batteries at least once a year unless you have “long-life” (10-year) batteries.
  • Replace alarms every 10 years.
  • Explain to your kids that when the smoke alarm sounds, they need to get to the safe meeting spot right away.

Most home insurance companies offer special discounts if you install protective devices like smoke detectors and sprinkler systems—especially if they’re centrally monitored. This will help lower the price of your home insurance.

Fire Extinguisher Tips

A fire extinguisher is an important piece of firefighting equipment. You should only use a fire extinguisher if the fire is small, not spreading, and there isn’t much smoke. For larger fires, you should get out of the home as quickly as possible, then call 9-1-1.

When using a fire extinguisher, make sure everyone has left or is leaving the home, and your back is to an exit that you can use quickly. Also, try to remember the acronym PASS:

Pull the pin
Aim low at the base of the fire
Squeeze the handle
Sweep the nozzle side to side

Fire Prevention Tips

The best way to escape a fire is to prevent one from happening in the first place. Here are some common sense fire prevention tips:

  • Inspect your chimney regularly. Clear any branches and debris from the chimney area. Make sure your chimney is at least three feet taller than the roof.
  • If you have a fire pit, set it up at least 10 feet from your home and any trees. Keep the fire small; there’s no need for a blazing bonfire.
  • Keep space heaters at least three feet from flammable objects.
  • Keep matches and lighters up high, away from kids.
  • If you smoke, smoke outside. Use large, deep ashtrays.
  • Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling or broiling food. When you’re done cooking, turn off the stove or oven.
  • Have an electrician check the wiring in your home. Inspect cords for frayed or exposed wiring and loose plugs. Do not run wires or cords under rugs. Do not overload extension cords.
  • Inspect and clean dryer filters frequently.
  • Don’t use flammable liquids inside. Safely discard all rags or materials that have been soaked in flammable liquids outside in a metal container.

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