Being ready is the key to surviving a home fire.
There are three things YOU can do to protect your family. They are simple, but they are very important. Do them now, before fire strikes.
- Install smoke alarms on every level of your home.
- Test smoke alarms monthly to be sure they are working and replace batteries at least once a year. If your smoke alarm makes a "chirping sound" - replace the battery immediately.
- Plan and practice home fire drills.
Make a Home Escape Plan!
Fire strikes quickly, often in the middle of the night while your family is asleep. Establish a plan now for evacuating each member of your family. Then, if fire does strike, everyone will know what to do and where to go.
One of the ways to keep your family safe is by practicing E.D.I.T.H. (Exit Drills In The Home). Many injuries are caused by people of all ages reacting improperly when there is a fire in their home. They may be affected by smoke, disoriented by being awakened abruptly and frightened.
It is critical that every household have a step-by-step plan for escaping a fire and practice it by having a "Home Fire Drill" at least twice a year.
Remember, your primary route should be the quickest, most direct way out. For example, through the front door to your meeting place or through a window to a roof or balcony where you can safely wait for help. The secondary route should be the next safest, most direct path out. For example, through the window of the room next door. Unless your children are infants, don't have them wait for your help. In a fire, parents may be blocked from their children's bedrooms by smoke or flames. As soon as they are able, each child should know how to escape a fire and be taught to do so as soon as he or she smells smoke or hears the sound of the smoke alarm.
- Practice your plan with a HOME FIRE DRILL.
- Make sure everyone understands what to do and assess each escape route realistically to be sure it can be used in an emergency. Walk through the primary and alternative escape routes, ensuring that all exits are accessible to all members of your household. For example, will windows open easily? Are ropes and ladders required to escape from second-story windows? (If you choose to have escape ladders, always practice using a ground floor window). Practice your plan at night because things look very different in the dark.
- If windows or doors in your home have security bars, make sure that the bars have quick-release mechanisms operational from the inside so that they can be opened immediately in an emergency. Quick-release mechanisms won't compromise your security, but they will increase your chances of safely escaping a home fire.
- Go outside to see if your house number is clearly visible from the street.
- Numbers must be visible to ensure that responding emergency personnel can find your home. In Montgomery County, Maryland existing residential home numbering can be 3 1/2 inches high, however new residential homes must be at least 5 inches high and if you replace existing numbers they must be at least 5 inches high. Numbers should be placed on a contrasting background, with a reflective coating on the numbers for easy visibility at night.
- Escape first and then call 9-1-1 from a neighbor's house.
- In the event of a fire, do not stop for anything. Do not try to rescue possessions or pets. Closing doors on your way out slows the spread of fire, giving you more time to safely escape. Go directly to your meeting place and then call the fire department from a neighbor's phone. Every member of your household should know how to call the fire department.
- Get out and stay out.
- Once you are out of your home, do not go back for any reason. If people are trapped, firefighters have the best chance of rescuing them. The heat and smoke of a fire are overpowering. Firefighters have the training, experience and protective equipment needed to enter burning buildings.
- Establish a meeting place outside your house and everyone should proceed to this location immediately to take attendance and make sure everyone has escaped.
- Crawl low under smoke.
- Smoke contains deadly gases and heat rises. During a fire, cleaner air will be near the floor. Teach your family that in a fire they must stay low to the floor to avoid smoke and intense heat. If you encounter smoke when using your primary exit, use your alternate escape plan. If you must exit through smoke, crawl on your hands and knees keeping your head 12 to 24 inches above the floor.
- Revise your escape plan as circumstances change in your household. Make sure everyone including young children, older adults and people with disabilities are included.
- Remember - children sleep very deeply.
- Adults need to make sure that children know the sound of the smoke alarm and what to do if they hear it. You can find out who can hear the smoke alarm if you have a fire drill when everyone else is sleeping. If anyone in your home does not wake to the smoke alarm or requires assistance getting out, plan to designate an adult to help them escape.