Fire Up: Plan for Safety

By: Carol Freyer

Moving into a new home is an exciting time. As your family gets used to their new digs and the new neighborhood, it's a good time to update your fire safety plan. First, test all the smoke detectors in your home. You should have at least one per floor - depending on the size of the home, additional alarms located near the bedrooms may be a good idea.

Using some graph paper, draw a diagram of your home's floor plan, one page for each floor. You can involve kids in this process - they may even want to draw their own diagrams. You want your children to be prepared and confident, not fearful. Allowing them to take part can make the planning enjoyable.

Once you have the home's basic outline, fill in all the windows, doors, stairs and any other possible exits.

Each room should have two possible exits clearly labeled. The first will be the most obvious - the doorway. But what if that route is blocked? Plan an alternate escape. In some cases this may mean climbing out windows, but you must plan to make these safe. Is there a tree to climb down? Can you safely reach a garage or shed roof? You may need to think about an escape ladder or other means of reaching the ground.

The majority of fires occur at night when people are sleeping, which needs to be taken in to account when planning your routes. Your escape plans should be practical for all members of the family and your planning should take into account those who will need extra help. When planning for bedrooms, you must ensure that the occupants of that particular room can use their second exit.

Teach children to sleep with their doors closed. If they hear the smoke detector they should feel the door before opening it - if it's hot they should use their alternate exit. If they open the door and find the path blocked by smoke they should use the alternate exit.

Choose a meeting spot outside of the house. This is where everyone will meet in case of a fire. All members of the family should know to go directly to the meeting spot and not to go back into the burning building. From this spot, someone can be sent to the neighbors to call 911 for the fire department.

Now it's time to put the plan in action! Practice the plan together, making sure everyone in the home is familiar with the exits from each room and knows how to escape. This small effort can make a huge difference - the familiarity will cut down indecision that could be fatal in a real emergency.

You should practice your plan every six months - about how often you change the battery in your smoke detector. Tying this to daylight savings makes it easy to remember. Every time you change your clocks you also change your batteries and practice the plan.

Keeping the fire plan fresh in your mind can help your family avoid tragedy, and you can sleep better knowing you're prepared for a rude awakening.

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