Planning and Practicing Your Fire Escape Plan

checking smoke detectors, fire prevention weekThe following fire and home safety information is a Fire Prevention Week message from UW Health's Level I Trauma and Burn Centers:


Fire can spread rapidly through our homes. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) states that you may have as little as 2 minutes to escape from your apartment, condominium, dormitory or home once the smoke alarm sounds.


With so little time to react, it's critical to plan and practice your home fire escape plan with your family. Currently, only about 23 percent of all U.S. households have developed and practiced a fire escape plan (NFPA, 2007).


You can find directions and tips for developing a fire escape plan at The NFPA's Fire Prevention Week website links you to a grid to draw the floor plan of your home, including windows, doors and smoke alarms so you can map out two ways to escape from each room and identify the family meeting place outside of the home.


Fire Prevention and Home Safety Tips


Here are some fire prevention/safety tips from the NFPA:

  • Before drawing up the plan, walk through your home to identify the location of smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, sprinklers, windows, stairs and doors. Mark the locations on the plan. Smoke alarms and phones should be in every sleeping area and on each level in the home. The alarms should be interconnected so if one alarms, they all do.


  • If you have hearing problems, install a smoke alarm that uses a flashing light or vibration to alert you that there may be a fire.


  • Walk through the plan with your family. Make sure the escape routes are clear of obstacles and furniture. Make sure the doors and windows open easily. 


  • Make sure everyone understands they may need to escape immediately when a smoke alarm sounds. 


  • Assign members of the household to assist infants, toddlers, grandparents and others with impaired mobility or understanding to escape. 


  • Practice crawling close to the ground to go under the smoke. 


  • Have escape ladders near second story windows for an additional escape route. Practice how to use these ladders. Children must be told never to practice without an adult’s assistance.


  • Never use an elevator in a fire.


  • Have a plan for closing doors to slow the spread of the fire as you escape.


  • If you cannot escape, practice sealing doors and vents with duct tape or towels if you cannot escape keeping smoke from entering the room, then open windows at the top and bottom for fresh air. When trapped, call the fire department or 911 and report your location. Use a flashlight in a window or light cloth to alert the firefighters to your location.


  • Make sure everyone knows the meeting place outside of the home and to NEVER re-enter a burning building.


  • Mount the plan with the emergency phone number of the fire department on the refrigerator or bulletin board in the home, where all the important information for the family is displayed. Practice the escape plan twice a year and check to see if everyone knows the fire department’s emergency phone number. Hold a drill during the night. 


  • Review the family’s fire escape plan with babysitters and overnight guests.

Plan and practice your escape plans so the members of your household can escape quickly and safely if a fire should break out in your homes.