Creating a fire escape plan is not as simple as drawing up a rudimentary blueprint with arrows indicating a way out in case of fire. A fire escape plan requires you to account for upper floors, to devise at least two ways out and to review and practice worst-case scenarios.
1. Keep the plan in a central place
Refrigerators are often ideal places to post fire escape plans.
There is no need for confusing, detailed blueprints and tiny print.
Diagram the floors and rooms of the house, including hallways, exits and entrances.
Highlight escape routes.
Try to fit everything on one standard-sized sheet of paper.
You may also want to post a plan in each person’s bedroom.
2. Account for higher-up floors.
If your residence has two floors (or more), each person in the household needs to be capable of escaping from upper levels.
Escape ladders are usually the best way to accomplish this. The ladders must be stored wisely and accessibly.
Review ladder assembly instructions and have everyone practice setting up a ladder. This includes kids, although they should do so only with an adult’s supervision, and they should start with first floor windows instead of on the second floor.
If you live in a building with an elevator, emphasise that the elevator should never be used in the event of a fire.
3. Prepare two escape routes.
During a fire, you never know what hallways or stairways might be clogged with smoke and heat and therefore dangerous or inaccessible.
Highlight two escape routes using different colours on the fire plan.
4. Practice worst-case scenarios.
Ideally, you have at least one safe escape route during a fire, but why take that risk of relying on only one way out?
Have everyone practice escaping the building as if lethal smoke was everywhere.
Drills should involve all household members getting low and exiting under smoke.
Practice shutting any doors between yourself and the fire, and sealing cracks and air outlets with duct tape, towels and other available items.
Also practice opening windows to let in fresh air, rehearse calls to 911 to give your address and situation details, and practice waving a signal such as a flashlight or white piece of cloth at the window to let rescuers know where you are.
5. List tips on the fire escape plan.
While it is good to orally review fire escape tips, they become much more etched in a person’s mind the more he sees them. Too many tips are overwhelming, though, so keep the number of tips to three, four or five. Some recommended tips for behaviour during a fire:
Close doors when leaving rooms
Stay by windows if trapped
Never take elevators
Run escape drills at least twice a year, and check smoke alarms at these times. If infants, elderly people or people with disabilities are in the household, be sure to make special provisions for their escape.