Fire Escape Plan: Can Your Family Get Out in Under Two Minutes?

Fire Escape Plan: Can Your Family Get Out in Less Than Two Minutes?

As a mother and an injury research scientist, I’ve dedicated much of my career to keeping kids safe and reducing pediatric injuries, which are the leading cause of death for children. But a recent trip to the Central Ohio Fire Museum and Learning Center with my four year old triplets – where we saw the remains of a child’s charred bedroom – reminded me that our family’s fire escape plan needed a refresher.

Once a fire has started, you have about two minutes to get out of your house. Taking a few minutes today to create and practice an escape plan with your family will help make sure everyone knows how to get outside quickly and safely if you ever do have a fire.

Step 1: MAKE THE PLAN

  • With the whole family, draw a floor plan of each floor of your home, including windows and doors. Find at least two possible ways out of each room and draw them onto your plan. Let your kids trace over the routes with colorful crayons.
  • Decide on a place where your family will meet once they are safely out of the house.
  • Choose who will help the youngest children (or any others needing assistance) get out safely. Young children can be hard to awaken if a fire happens at night when they are sleeping. Children also get scared and may try to hide. An adult should be assigned to help each young child.
  • Have a way to dial 911. Make sure your child knows how to call for help or has a landline or cell phone to do so. Even cell phones that are not activated can be used to call for help in an emergency.

Step 2: TALK ABOUT THE PLAN

  • Review the plan and talk about what to do if the smoke alarm goes off and if there is a fire. Remind kids that they should never hide during a fire.
  • Test your smoke alarms every month so that you know they are working and your child is familiar with the sound. You should have a smoke alarm on each floor of your home near the sleeping areas and inside each bedroom. Hear the beep where you sleep.
  • Sleep with bedroom doors closed. This helps to keep smoke out in case there is a fire.
  • Teach your child to stay low and crawl on the ground where the air is less smoky.
  • Teach your child to feel if the door is hot with the back of his/her hand before leaving that room. If a closed door is hot, he/she should use a different way out of the room. Sometimes the next best way out is a window. If your child’s room is not on the ground floor, get an escape ladder, show your child where the ladder is kept and practice using it. Also make sure your child knows how to open windows and remove screens.
  • Teach children never go back inside once they are out of the home.

Step 3: PRACTICE THE PLAN

  • Practice your plan as a family at least twice a year (in the day and evening), trying different ways out of rooms.
  • Teach your kids how to drop, stop and roll if their clothing catches on fire.
  • Use the stopwatch on your phone or a timer to see how quickly your family can get out of the house to the meeting place. Practice until you can do it in less than two minutes.

Make the time to talk about your fire escape plan and practice your family fire drill today.

For other safety tips and to learn how to make your home safer, download the Make Safe Happen mobile app, which was created by experts at Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Center for Injury Research and Policy and listen to the Make Safe Happen Pediacast podcast with Dr. Mike Patrick.

Lara McKenzie, PhD, MA
Lara B. McKenzie, PhD, is a Principal Investigator in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital and an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, College of Medicine and the Division of Epidemiology, College of Public Health at The Ohio State University. She is the mother of triplets (two girls, Parker and Harper, and one boy, Holden). She often jokes that when she leaves Children's, it’s to go to her second, less glamorous job where she doesn't get paid and no one listens to her!

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