If you don’t yet have a fire escape plan for your home, draw one up right now or have your local fire service help you come up with one through a Safe and Well visit.
A fire escape plan prepares you for the worst. It maps out possible escape routes and the best exits from different parts of the house. It also details what everyone should do during a fire, who needs help evacuating and where to assemble.
But a fire escape plan is useless if you make it and shelve it until you need it.
Successful escape from a burning home requires speed, especially considering that modern houses burn much faster than older ones.
Regularly practising your fire escape plan helps everyone remember what they are supposed to do and greatly improves reaction time if a fire occurs.
Home fire drills should involve all family members.
There isn’t a mandated period after which you should carry out a fire drill. But it’s a good idea to do it every six months.
How to carry out a basic fire drill
Make sure you already have a fire escape plan. That’s what you’ll be practising. Don’t come up with strategies and escape routes on the fly.
Strictly following a plan prepares everyone for a real fire. Prepare basic fire drill steps.
Here are some tips on how to do a basic fire drill at home.
1. Choose an ‘inconvenient’ time
It’s important to get your family ready for the worst-case scenario, which could be a fire starting in the middle of the night.
Choose an inconvenient time such as when everyone’s asleep. Having to escape from different rooms will prepare you better for an actual fire.
It’s up to you if you want to warn family members beforehand that there’ll be a fire drill. If there are young children, it’s probably a good idea to give them a heads up before they go to bed to keep them from panicking.
2. Keep it realistic
Make the drill as realistic as possible. Start by setting off the fire alarms.
Most alarms have a ‘test’ button you can press to manually activate the alarm. If all your home’s fire alarms are interconnected – which they should be – they’ll all go off.
If they are not, activate at least 2 or 3.
Yelling ‘fire’ or blowing a whistle can also help get family members up and rushing out of the house.
Make sure you don’t just run blindly out of the house. Remember to use escape routes and exits in your fire escape plan.
This is not just important for practice; you need to be sure that they work.
When getting out of the house, remind everyone to act as if there is an actual fire.
They should cover their nose and mouth, stay low to avoid smoke, check doorknobs before opening the door and close (not lock) the door behind them to keep the fire from spreading.
3. Get out fast
The goal of any fire drill is to get everyone to safety as quickly as possible. Set a target of having everyone out of the house in less than 2 minutes.
Use a countdown timer to check how long it takes everyone to get out from when you started the alarm.
4. Assemble outside
You should already have a pre-planned fire assembly point in your fire escape plan.
If all family members manage to be at that point within your target time, your fire drill was a success. Switch off the alarms and put anything you may have taken such as a fire extinguisher back in its place.
5. Get feedback
Gather everyone and review the fire drill.
If you did not hit your target evacuation time, find out why. Were the exits obstructed? Did some family members have trouble finding the escape routes? Did they panic? Did they know how to use a fire escape ladder?
Ask family members to recount their escape.
Take note of areas that you could have done better and incorporate them in your next fire drill. You may also need to adjust your fire escape plan perhaps to remove some exits or plan a different escape route.