People are dying in house fires in California. Half of those people are older adults.
During a true emergency, the simplest of things, like leaving your home, can become very difficult. That’s why creating a family escape plan is one of the most important things you can do. Spend a few minutes on this page and discover how easy it is to prepare before an emergency.
Using your new escape plan map, plan your route. Learn how to open windows (especially ones with bars on them). Make sure everyone in your family knows each escape route.
Most high-rise or multi-story apartment complexes post fire escape plans for all residents to see and follow. However, these plans seldom include escape routes for each apartment. Family members must develop and practice an evacuation plan for their individual apartment.
Everyone in your house should visit each bedroom and figure out two escape routes from that room.
1. The normal exit
2. The other exit through a door or a window
Doors make great fire barriers! It takes an average house fire 10 – 15 minutes to burn through a wooden door. Those 10 – 15 minutes could save your life. So make sure bedroom doors are closed while people are sleeping.
Test all closed doors before opening them. Put the back of your hand near the crack of a closed door. If you feel heat, DON’T OPEN IT. This is your fire break. Use your second way out to escape. If the door is not hot, open it slowly but be prepared to close it again if you see flames or heavy smoke.
People who die or are injured in house fires are usually not burned. They’re hurt by the smoke a fire creates. Smoke and heat rise when a fire burns, so the best place to find fresher, cooler air is near the floor. When a person is caught in a building filled with smoke, they should drop on hands and knees and crawl to the nearest exit.
A special meeting place should be established a safe distance from your home. It needs to be outside and stationary. It could be a mailbox, the neighbor’s driveway, a street sign on the corner, or a building across the street. This is where everyone meets in the event of a fire. It also prevents family members from wandering around the neighborhood looking for one another, or worse, being tempted to re-enter the burning house looking for someone thought to be trapped inside.
Choose your safe meeting place TODAY. Make sure everyone in your home knows it.
Once your plan is made, it’s time to practice. Do this often. At different times during the day, especially at night, when house fires are far more likely.
Position each family member in his or her bed, turn all the lights off, and activate the smoke detector by depressing the test switch. Each family member should help “awaken” the others by yelling the alert. Family members should exit their rooms according to the plan, crawl low under smoke, practice feeling doors for heat, and meet in the designated safe meeting place outside the home.
Pets are a part of your family, so make sure you include them in your plan and in your practice sessions!
Once outside at the safe meeting place, it’s time to call 9-1-1. When you speak with the emergency dispatcher, the most important information you can give them is where you are. If anyone is missing, give that information to the fire department immediately and tell them where the probable location of the missing person could be. Under no circumstances should anyone re-enter the burning building.
The first step in escaping a fire is knowing there is a fire. That’s what a smoke alarm will do for you. Make sure to change the batteries in all your alarms twice a year when you change the clocks – Spring Ahead, Fall Back. And test the batteries every month.
Learn More »
Dangle – Jumping from upper floors of a building should be your last alternative. However, it is possible to hang from a second story window and drop feet first to the ground without significant injury. A sprained ankle or broken leg is better than staying in a burning building.
Ladders – Home owners can purchase fire ladders for second-floor bedrooms. If you don’t have a fire ladder, use an adjacent porch or garage roof to await rescue by the fire department.
No Elevators – When exiting a multi-story structure, never use the elevator unless you’ve been instructed that’s it safe by a fire official. Elevators often stop working in the event of a fire, trapping people inside. The result can be deadly. A power failure may cause them to stop in between floors as well. Use the fire escape or an enclosed fire resistant stairwell to exit a high-rise building.
Explore! – As a family, explore the building you live in, so that every exit is familiar, including those from storage, laundry and recreation rooms. If the hallways become smoke-filled as the result of a fire, memory can help in finding the exits. Practicing emergency escape plans is crucial to helping you and your family remain calm and confident during an actual emergency.
Like LAFD Captain Jaime Moore explained in the safety film on this page, sheltering in place can often be the wisest choice in an emergency; especially if the emergency is a hi-rise fire.
Whether you live in a hi-rise or a single-family home, here are the steps the American Red Cross suggests you should follow to safely shelter in place during any emergency.