Fire can spread rapidly through your home, leaving you as little as two minutes to escape safely once the alarm sounds. Your ability to get out depends on advance warning from smoke alarms, and advance planning — a home fire escape plan that everyone in your family is familiar with and has practiced.
Developing your Plan
Have a family night and make a plan. Walk through your home and inspect all possible exits and escape routes. Households with children should consider drawing their home floor plan, marking two ways (doors and windows) out of each room. Also, mark the location of each smoke alarm. Install smoke alarms in every sleeping room, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. Choose an outside meeting place (i.e. neighbor's house, a light post, mailbox, or stop sign) a safe distance in front of your home where everyone can meet after they've escaped. Make sure your house number is clearly visible from the street. The Fire Department cannot help you if they cannot find you. If there are infants, older adults, or family members with mobility limitations, make sure that someone is assigned to assist them in the fire drill and in the event of an emergency. Assign a backup person too, in case the designee is not home during the emergency. Tell guests or visitors to your home about your family's fire escape plan. When staying overnight at other people's homes, ask about their escape plan. If they don't have a plan in place, offer to help them make one. This is especially important when children are permitted to attend "sleepovers" at friends' homes.
Practicing your Plan
Practice your home fire escape plan at least twice a year, making the drill as realistic as possible. Allow children to master fire escape planning and practice before holding a fire drill at night when they are sleeping. The objective is to practice, not to frighten, so telling children there will be a drill before they go to bed can be as effective as a surprise drill. It's important to determine during the drill whether children and others can readily waken to the sound of the smoke alarm. If they fail to awaken, make sure that someone is assigned to wake them up as part of the drill and in a real emergency situation. If your home has two floors, every family member (including children) must be able to escape from the second floor rooms. Escape ladders can be placed in or near windows to provide an additional escape route. Review the manufacturer's instructions carefully so you'll be able to use a safety ladder in an emergency. Practice setting up the ladder from a first floor window to make sure you can do it correctly and quickly. Children should only practice with a grown-up, and only from a first-story window. Store the ladder near the window, in an easily accessible location. You don't want to have to search for it during a fire. When you do your fire drill, everyone in the family should practice getting low and going under the smoke to your exit. Practice closing doors on your way out as this slows the spread of fire, giving you more time to safely escape.
In some cases, smoke or fire may prevent you from exiting your home or apartment building. To prepare for an emergency like this, practice "sealing yourself in for safety" as part of your home fire escape plan. Close all doors between you and the fire. Use duct tape or towels to seal the door cracks and cover air vents to keep smoke from coming in. If possible, open your windows at the top and bottom so fresh air can get in. Call the fire department to report your exact location. Wave a flashlight or light-colored cloth at the window to let the Fire Department know where you are located.
A Real Fire!!
Be fully prepared for a real fire: when a smoke alarm sounds, get out immediately. Always choose the escape route that is safest – the one with the least amount of smoke and heat – but be prepared to escape under toxic smoke if necessary. Once you're out, stay out! Under no circumstances should you ever go back into a burning building. If someone is missing, inform 911 when you call. The Mason City Fire Fighters have the skills and equipment to perform rescues.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT. PRACTICE YOUR HOME FIRE ESCAPE PLAN TWICE EVERY YEAR!!
The Mason City Fire Department has prepared a Home Fire Escape Plan brochure to assist citizens and families in developing and practicing their home fire drills.