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Knowing what to do before a fire occurs can save your life. Develop an escape plan for your family today. The entire family should meet to develop a home fire escape plan, which should include the following:

  1. Draw a floor plan and find two exits from each room. Windows can serve as emergency exits.
  2. Designate a meeting place at a safe distance outside the home.
  3. Practice getting out of the house through the various exits.
  4. Install smoke detectors wherever needed.

If a fire occurs and the room door is CLOSED

  1. Get out of bed to the floor. Keep low.
  2. Crawl to the door.
  3. Feel the door. Use the palm of your hand to feel the lower, middle and upper parts of the door to be sure it is not hot.
  4. Brace yourself against the door and open it very slowly. Toxic gases or fire may be on the other side.

Caution: Some doors may not get hot or may feel only warm due to their construction, so be very careful when opening any door when there is a fire. If smoke or hot gases rush into the room when you open the door, quickly close it and seek another method of escape.

  1. If it is safe to leave the room, get below the smoke and get out by the quickest and safest route.
  2. Once you are out of the burning building, stay out. Do not go back into the building.

If a fire occurs and the room door is OPEN

  1. Get out of bed to the floor. Keep low.
  2. Check for smoke and fire.
  3. If it is safe to leave, cover your nose and mouth with a cloth (moist if possible). Get low and get out quickly.
  4. If there is smoke or fire, immediately close the door and use an alternate escape route.

Alternate escape routes

  • Windows can serve as emergency exits.
  • You can use an escape ladder, a knotted rope, or an existing fire escape.
  • You may be able to climb out a window onto the roof and drop to the ground.
  • Use stairs to get from upper floors to ground level. Never use elevators; they can easily malfunction during a fire.

Once you're out, stay out. Go to the designated meeting place. When everyone is safely out of the building, go to a neighbor's house or a fire alarm box to call the fire department. Escape first, then call!

Trapped in a burning building

If you should find yourself trapped in a building during a fire, there are several steps you can take to protect your safety.

  • Keep doors closed to keep out smoke and fire. Block off the smoke with moist towels, throw rugs or other fabrics. You can also use wide duct tape to seal openings between the door and door frame.
  • Close as many doors as possible between yourself and the fire. Stay by the window and watch for the fire department.
  • Put a damp cloth over your nose and mouth to make it easier to breathe. You should keep a bottle of water in a closet for such an emergency. You can also get water from a faucet, an ice bucket in a hotel room, a fish tank, a vase of fresh flowers, or a soft drink bottle. 
  • Be very careful when opening windows. Open them only enough to let in some fresh air or to attract attention to your location. Sometimes opening a window will change the air pressure in the room and smoke may enter the room from the inside or the outside of the building.
  • If smoke starts to enter the room through the open window, from around the closed door, or through vents, immediately CLOSE the window.
  • Breaking the window may be very risky. Once the window is broken, there may be no way to keep smoke, hot gases and fire from entering the room.
  • If there is a telephone in the room, call for help. If not, yell out the window and make noise to attract attention.
  • If it is safe to have the window open, wave a sheet, a large piece of cloth or another bright object outside the window to attract attention. If possible, hang some bright cloth or a sheet out the window and close the window.
  • Wait for rescue.

Away from home

  • When you enter an unfamiliar building, look for at least two ways to exit from where you are.
  • Especially when staying overnight in hotels or other buildings, always look for the location of exits. Check to make sure that fire doors are kept closed, that they are easy to open, and that you can get to them easily.
  • Remember to use the stairs to get to safety. Never use the elevator.

Smoke detectors are life protectors

Most fatal fires occur at night, when most people are sleeping. It is very important to have at least one smoke detector near the bedroom area to wake you in case of a fire. In homes with more than one level, put at least one smoke detector on each level. For proper installation information, contact your fire department.

Multiple smoke detector locations

  • In each bedroom corridor.
  • At the top of each stairway.
  • Protecting normal exit route.

The best protection is to have smoke detectors in every room, in corridors and at the top of stairways.

  • Having a smoke detector in the hall outside the bedrooms is important, but if the doors are closed, a fire in the bedroom may not be detected quickly by the smoke detector, so additional detectors may be needed.
  • Check smoke detectors periodically to make sure they work.
  • Change the batteries in your smoke detectors at least once a year. A good way to remind yourself to change the batteries is to choose a particular date, such as a holiday, when the clocks are set back in the fall, or on your birthday. Change the batteries every year on this date.
  • Use only alkaline batteries, or batteries recommended by the manufacturer of the smoke detector.
  • Keep a spare alkaline battery on hand for your detector.

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