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City of Lake Wales, Florida Fire Department
ISO Class 3
Big Dog
Exit Drills in the Home

In 2005, 3,675 Americans died in home fires --1 person every 143 minutes. That's more than 10 people a day. Tens of thousands more were injured. People can survive even major fires in their homes if they are alerted to the fire, get out quickly, and stay out.

  • Make an escape plan and practice it
  • Install and maintain smoke detectors
  • Consider installing an automatic fire-sprinkler system

When a fire occurs, there's no time for planning. Sit down with your family today and make a step-by-step plan for escaping from a fire.

  • Draw a floor-plan of your home - The floor plan should mark two ways out of every room, especially sleeping areas. Discuss the escape routes with every member of your household.
  • Agree on a meeting place outside your home where every member of the household will gather after escaping a fire to wait for the fire department. This allows you to count heads and inform the fire department if anyone is trapped inside the burning building.
  • Practice your escape plan at least twice a year. Have a fire drill in your home. Appoint someone to be monitor and have everyone participate. A fire drill is not a race. Get out quickly, but carefully.
  • Make your exit drill realistic. Pretend that some exits are blocked by fire and practice alternative escape routes. Pretend that the lights are out and that some escape routes are filling with smoke.
  • Make sure everyone in the household can unlock all doors and windows quickly, even in the dark. Windows or doors with security bars need to be equipped with quick release devices and everyone in the household should know how to use them.
  • In apartment buildings, use stairways to escape. Never use an elevator during a fire. It may stop between floors or take you to a floor where the fire is burning.
  • If your house is a two-story, and you must escape from a second-story window, be sure there is a safe way to reach the ground. Make special arrangements for children, older adults, and people with disabilities. People who have difficulty moving should have a phone in their sleeping area and, if possible, should sleep on the ground floor.
  • Test doors before opening them. While kneeling or crouching at the door, reach up as high as you can and touch the door, the knob, and the space between the door and its frame with the back of your hand. If the door is hot, use another escape route. If the door is cool, open it with caution.
  • If you are trapped in an area, close all doors between you and the fire. Stuff the cracks around the doors to keep out smoke. Wait at a window and signal for help with a light-colored cloth or a flashlight. If there's a phone in the room, call the fire department or 911, and tell them exactly where you are.
  • When there's a fire, don't stop for anything. Do not try to rescue possessions or pets. Go directly to your meeting place and then call the fire department from a neighbor's phone or an alarm box. Every member of your household should know how to call the fire department.
  • Crawl low under smoke. Smoke contains deadly gases, and heat rises. During a fire, cleaner air will be near the floor. 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 (30 to 60 cm) above the floor.
  • Stay Out! Once you are out of your home, don't go back for any reason. If people are trapped, the 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.
  • Smoke Detectors - More than half of all fatal home fires happen at night while people are asleep. Smoke detectors sound an alarm when a fire starts, alerting people before they are trapped or overcome by smoke. With smoke detectors, your risk of dying in a home fire is cut nearly in half. Install smoke detectors outside every sleeping area and on every level of your home, including the basement. Follow installation instructions carefully and test smoke detectors monthly. Change all smoke detector batteries at least once a year. If your detector is more than 10 years old, replace it.
  • Automatic Sprinkler Systems - Sprinklers attack a fire in its early stages by spraying water only on the area where the fire is detected. Consider including sprinkler systems in plans for new construction and installing them in existing homes.

Copyright 1995 National Fire Protection Association
Batterymarch Park, Quincy, MA 02269

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