With house fires today spreading much faster and producing more smoke compared to several decades ago, families have less time than ever to get out in case of a fire.
Having smoke alarms in every room provides early warning, giving you more time to escape. But you also need an escape plan.
During the chaos of a fire, it’s difficult to find your way out. Children and seniors are at an even greater risk.
A fire escape plan maps out multiple escape routes and exists from different parts of the house. Every member of the family should know where all the exists are and be able to use them. That’s why it’s important to create an escape route together and carry out regular drills.
How to Choose Fire Escape Routes and Exits
How many fire exits are required in a home? The number and location of fire exists in your home will depend on how many you are, the design of the house and the presence of children and/or an elderly.
Ideally, you should have more than one exist regardless of family size. Even you are only one or two in the house, it’s a good idea to have multiple escape options.
When choosing a fire exit, make sure it meets the following conditions.
- It leads outside or to a safe place.
- It should be easy and quick to open. If it is locked, keep the key nearby. The door should also open in the direction one is escaping towards to ensure fast exit.
- Each fire exist should have its own escape route.
- It should be clear of obstructions (more on this shortly).
Your fire escape plan should have fire escape routes that end with a safe exit. This can be directly from the bed to the window, down the stairs and out the front door or through the hallway and out the back door.
Make sure that all rooms have access to one or two fire escape routes.
For example, someone in the living room can escape out the front door while someone sleeping in the first floor bedroom can quickly deploy a fire escape ladder through the window.
Consider the age and physical condition of family members when planning escape routes and exits.
If there are children and elderly around, they need to be able to use most of the exits either on their own or with some help.
If there’s someone disabled, have a plan for how you’ll get them to safety or make sure they can easily use some of the exits.
The best way to map fire escape routes and exits is to walk around the house with your family and discuss the best escape options.
Why Is It Important To Keep Fire Exits Clear?
Once you have identified the best escape paths and exits, make sure they are always accessible. This involves doing a walk around every few months and carrying out a fire escape drill with your family.
Keep an eye out for any possible obstructions.
During a fire, you won’t have time to move that table blocking the door or the flower vases on the window. Seconds matter.
You may be able to move an obstruction out of your way but will your child?
In case of an emergency, they need to be able to escape on their own (if they are old enough) wherever in the house they are.
Here are some of the obstructions to look out for.
- Furniture, boxes or a laundry basket blocking the hallway.
- A curtain hanging over a door meant to be used as a fire exit. The curtain can slow down movement and potentially become a fire hazard if it catches fire.
- Toys strewn in the hallway and near doors.
- Items such as a laundry basket, furniture, flower vases, boxes or toys on the stairs.
- Exits and escape routes being used as storage areas.
- Items such as flower vases on the windowsill. If the window is part of your escape plan (using a fire escape ladder), it should stay clear.
Obstructions not only slow down escape from the house, they can be hazards themselves. Tripping on a box or hitting a piece of furniture can cause serious injury, making it even harder to get out.
Remember that seconds make a difference. It’s not just the fire that can kill you; the smoke is dangerous too.
If something slows you or a family member down, toxic smoke can quickly engulf you.
How Often to Inspect Your Fire Escape Routes
You should always be on the lookout when walking around the house. If you spot a box, furniture or anything obstructing an escape path or door, remove it immediately.
You should also do fire drills every few months to spot any obstructions that may not be so obvious.
Make sure other family members also know to keep fire exits clear.