|“Practice Your Escape Plan”—that’s the message of Fire Prevention Week 2007. It’s not enough just to have a fire escape plan. To escape safely from a home fire you’ve got to make sure that everyone in the home has practiced the plan as well. According to a recent poll conducted for the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), while the majority of Americans have an escape plan in case of a fire, most haven’t practiced it. And three-quarters of Americans believe they have 10 minutes or less until a fire turns deadly.
When it comes to escape plans, practice is key. Whether you’re a firefighter, a teacher or a parent, you can help neighbors, friends and family members learn how to escape safely in the event of a home fire.
♦ Practice your home fire escape plan twice a year, making the drill as realistic as possible.
♦ Make arrangements in your plan for anyone in your home who has a disability.
♦ Allow children to master fire escape planning and practice before holding a fire drill at night when they are sleeping. The objective is to practice, not to frighten, so telling children there will be a drill before they go to bed can be as effective as a surprise drill.
♦ It’s important to determine during the drill whether children and others can readily waken to the sound of the smoke alarm. If they don’t awake, assign someone to wake them as part of the drill and in a real emergency situation.
♦ Always choose the escape route that is safest—the one with the least amount of smoke and heat—but be prepared to escape under toxic smoke if necessary. While practicing your fie drill, everyone should practice getting low and going under the smoke to your exit.
♦ If you home has two floors, everyone (including children) must be able to escape from the second floor rooms. Escape ladders can be placed in or near windows and review manufacturer’s instructions on how to use a safety ladder in an emergency. Practice setting up the ladder from a first floor window to make sure you can do it correctly and quickly. Children should only practice with a grown-up and only from a first-floor window.
♦ Closing doors on your way out slows the spread of fire, giving you more time to safely escape.If smoke or fire prevents you from exiting your home, practice “sealing yourself in for safety” as part of your home fire escape plan. Close all doors between you and the fire. Use duct tape or towels to seal the door cracks and cover air vents to keep smoke from coming into the room. If possible, open your windows at the top and bottom so fresh air can get in. Report your exact location to the fire department and wave a flashlight or light-colored cloth at the window to draw attention.