No one ever thinks a tragedy will happen to them. We see events on the news all the time such as accidents, home invasions, and house fires. We rarely plan for these things because we never think that we will be in such a situation. If you do one thing this coming year, whether you have a family or live alone, create a fire escape plan. Even if you live alone, it's a good idea to have a fire escape plan for yourself and in case you have company staying over.
A fire escape plan does not need to be elaborate. There needs to be just enough detail to ensure everyone is safe, knows how to get out, and where to meet once they are out. A good fire escape plan will take into consideration the basics, different ages of family members, and the different needs of those who are disabled, have cognitive issues or are elderly.
What Is a Fire Escape Plan?
A fire escape plane is an action plan on what to do if your home is on fire. A basic plan will show exit routes, how to leave safely, who's in charge of safely getting things like wallets and keys, and who the safety captain and co-captains are. Everyone's fire escape plan is different based on what type of home you live in, if you have pets, and who lives with you if anyone. Your plan needs to account for pets if you have them. Keep in mind, pets like smaller children might panic and hide. Get out and alert firefighters to the last place your pet was, hiding places, name, and size.
Specialized Fire Escape Plan
Your fire escape plan might include special instructions for getting those who are younger, have a disability, or older to safety. The key here is to keep age and ability in mind when creating your fire escape plan. The focus of this group is to get out safely and should not be given any other tasks to take care of. A specialized fire escape plan should include who will need help and who the helper will be.
Benefits of a Fire Escape Plan
The main benefit of having a fire escape plan is to make sure you and your family get out safely. There is also a benefit in planning what to do before a fire, during a fire, and after a fire. These are things that can be forgotten in the aftermath of a fire so pre and post planning can be beneficial.
Before a Fire
Before there's a fire, there is planning for things to put in place before, what to do during, and how to deal with the aftermath. Before a fire put together personal information to keep at relatives, neighbors, or in a safe deposit box at the bank. This should include medical records, birth certificates, copies of insurance policies, social security cards, drivers licenses, and medical insurance. If you have pets, include vaccination records for them as well. This will save time in worrying about replacing that information if it's lost in the fire.
During a Fire
The benefit of having a fire escape plan during a fire could be the difference between life and death. The information in your fire escape plan gives everyone the best opportunity of surviving and getting out safely. Having a fire escape plan in place can also inform your family about what to do if evacuation is not possible or not safe.
After a Fire
Having a fire escape plane can be beneficial after a fire so everyone knows where to go and what to do next. This includes where to meet during, knowing where all of you will go immediately after, and a plan to house pets if need be. This ensures everyone, both human and animals, has a place to go before it becomes a necessity.
How to Create a Fire Escape Plan for Your Family
So how do you create a fire escape plan? Start with the basics and plan your route. Make sure that every room has two ways to exit that are appropriate for your type of house. Look at the list below for ideas that cover different house types, who's in charge and how to exit safely.
How to Exit
Who's in Charge?
If there is more than one adult in the home one should be in charge and the other should be the backup or co-captain. These are the people who will know where all the important information is, take a head count at the meeting place, call the proper authorities, and contact other family members for either help or updates. If there are two adults, they should discuss who will be in charge of any infants and young children, those with special needs, and the elderly.
Infants and Young Children
The main concern in a fire is those who cannot help themselves such as infants and young children. If there are more than one child and more than one adult, put in the action plan who will go to which child. This will avoid blindly running from room to room at the same time. When you have your assigned child proceed to the exit. Younger children may not hear an alarm or become frightened and hide. Check under the bed and the closet of your assigned child while calling their name.
Those with special needs might be more difficult to calm in a stressful situation. So it is important to practice the fire escape plan regularly. Again, assign an adult to the person with special needs who understands what those needs are. If they are in a wheelchair, make sure the assigned person can either lift them or safely drag them to safety. The assigned person will also need to know what calming techniques work if the special need is one where the person has a cognitive issue such as Down's syndrome, Autism, or diminished mental capacity.
With the elderly, there can be mobility issues and problems with confusion. This is another group that should have an adult assigned to them. Make sure the adult assigned can assist with mobility issues and knows how to keep the person calm but moving. This is especially important for those with dementia. Stay calm, be as soothing as possible, answer their questions, but stress the importance of leaving without panicking them. If it is an issue of moving slower due to age, get them started towards the exit and then move on to your assigned people and then work back to them as long as it is still safe to do so.
Pets fall into the same categories as elderly, infants and young children, and those who have special needs. Assign the pets out evenly amongst the adults. Remember, pets are like young children. They might panic and bolt, or panic and hide. Look under furniture and in corners as you make your way out. Once you are out, let the authorities know there are pets inside, what their names are, favorite places to hide, and overall temperament when stressed.
We don't like to plan for bad things or tragedies but the more prepared we are the better the odds are that we will survive. Creating a fire escape plan does not have to be difficult. Keep it simple especially for younger children, the elderly, and those with special needs. Have kids help create the plan and make colorful maps to put on the back of doors.
When choosing who is in charge of which child, a person with special needs, an elderly person, or a pet keep in mind who has the strength to bodily move who. The goal of the fire escape plan is to get everyone out safely. Remember, to do that follow your plan. Touch the doors, stay low and below the smoke, know your exit routes and the exterior windows. Practice often enough that everyone knows where to meet and who's in charge. Careful planning on your part and knowing your fire escape plan will help you and your family survive.