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Home Evacuation Planning and Practice

Having a home evacuation plan and knowing how to enact it can mean the difference between life and death. Yet, only a small number of families (25 percent) have actually developed and practiced a home fire escape plan to ensure they could escape quickly and safely.

Make sure your family is prepared. The Baltimore County Fire Department advises that you take these precautionary steps:

  • Create a plan. Pull together everyone in your household and make a home evacuation plan, with two ways out of each room, including windows. Don't forget to mark the location of each smoke alarm, and make sure everyone - including children - knows how to identify the sound of the alarm.
  • Make sure family members know to leave the house immediately if the smoke alarm sounds; do not investigate to find out why it went off.
  • Practice your evacuation plan. Practice escaping by each route; practice in the dark.
  • The plan should include an arranged meeting place for your family.
  • Teach family members that once they are out of the house during an emergency, stay out. Never go back in. Call 911 from a neighbor's home.  Don't waste time saving property. If someone is missing, tell the firefighters, who are equipped to perform rescues.

Family members also need to be educated about what to do if they need to escape through a burning house:

  • Crawl low under the smoke.
  • Use the top of your hand to feel top of doors, doorknobs and the cracks between doors and doorframes to make sure fire is not on other side. If heat and smoke come in when you open the door, slam it shut and use an alternate route.
  • If you are unable to leave the building, seal doors and vents with duct tape or towels to prevent smoke from entering the room. Open a window at the top and bottom so fresh air can enter; be ready to close the window immediately if it draws smoke into the room. Call the Fire Department and let them know you are trapped inside. Wave a flashlight or light-colored cloth to let rescuers know where you are located.

For more information on home escape planning, visit the National Fire Protection Association

Revised April 17, 2014

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