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Plan a Safe Fire Escape Route for Your Home

Your home absolutely must have a fire escape plan. Should the house catch fire, you need your family to know how to escape and avoid a chaotic exit. An accidental home fire can catch people unawares, so without an escape plan, you’re putting everyone’s lives in jeopardy.

It’s also important that you discuss with the whole family about general home fire safety, including how to decrease the risk of fires as well as what to do and where to go in the event that your home catches fire.

Creating a home fire escape plan

  • Draw your home fire escape plan. You can download a printable grid here, where you can draw your home’s floor plan, mark all the exists, and select the fastest and safest escape routes
  • Make sure every family member, as well as permanent or temporary guests, knows the two options for escaping each room. You need to plan an exit through both a window and the door; should the fire obstruct your first exit, a second needs to be available
  • Choose a safe meeting place outside. A good spot is next to the mailbox, street light, or at your neighbour’s house
  • Write down emergency numbers and display them or show your children where they are located. Be sure that everyone knows the fire emergency line by heart
  • Place the fire plan on the fridge so that everyone remembers where the safe exits and meeting points are
  • Practise your home fire escape plan at least twice a year

Practising your home fire escape plan

  • Let your children know before they go to bed that there will be a fire drill. This way they won’t be frightened when they hear the smoke alarm go off while they are sleeping at night. If they don’t wake up, assign someone to wake them up both during the drill and in an actual emergency
  • If you hear the smoke alarm sound, leave immediately
  • Only escape through a window if you cannot get out through a door
  • Provide special arrangements for anyone with a disability, e.g. assign two people to help them. It’s always good to designate someone and have a backup if the designee isn’t home when there is a real fire
  • If you live in a two storey home, ensure that everyone can escape from the second floor. Place ladders in or near windows, where they can be easily accessed. First practise going down a ladder from the first floor before trying it from the second, and be sure to always supervise children when they are escaping
  • If there is broken glass, cover it with a blanket or doona
  • Choose the escape route that has less smoke and heat, even if it takes longer
  • Crawl down low if you are caught in smoke
  • Close the doors after you have left a room to help slow the spread of fire and give you more time to escape safely
  • Once you get out, stay at the designated meeting place and do not re-enter the house. If someone is missing, let the fire department dispatcher know when you call, and wait for the firemen to arrive and perform the rescue
  • If your clothes catch fire, remember to stop, drop, and roll. Stop where you are, cover your face with your hands, drop to the ground, then roll until the flames are extinguished
  • If you cannot escape your home at all, close any doors and windows that are standing between yourself and the fire. If you can open windows to let in some fresh air, do so. Call the fire department, alert them of your location, and once they arrive, wave a flashlight or coloured cloth at the window to signal where you are

Fire safety tips for around the house

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including each bedroom. An interconnected smoke alarm is preferable because when one sounds, the others will too. Test the batteries monthly and replace them yearly
  • Always leave keys in deadlocks or on a hook attached to a chain near the door or window, where intruders can’t reach them but you can
  • Make sure that windows and doors, including security grilles and screens, can easily be opened. Security bars with emergency release devices inside can readily be opened
  • Your street number on the mailbox and in front of your home must be clearly visible from the street. If not, consider painting it on the gutter or installing house numbers so that a fire brigade or ambulance can find your home

Remember, in order to escape and survive a fire, you should plan and practise your escape before the fire happens. Create your home fire escape plan now so your family can stay calm and safe in case of an emergency.