Fire kills more people every year than all of the natural disasters in the United States combined ! Earthquakes, floods, tornados and hurricanes do not even come close to matching the destructive power of fire. Approximately 5,500 people die from fire every year in this country. The real tragedy is that most of these deaths could easily be prevented with a few simple precautions. Working smoke detectors along with a well rehearsed escape plan can mean the difference between life and death. The following covers the most important areas to consider in developing a family home escape plan.

HOME ALARM SIGNAL : A smoke detector is your best alarm. They will buy you time to make your escape. Working smoke detectors could reduce residential fire fatalities by up to 90 percent. Test your alarms regularly. If you have a battery powered alarm, change the battery every six months. (A good time is when you change your clocks). Once awaked by your detector, yell and shout to make sure that all family members are awake.

TWO WAYS OUT of each bedroom is a primary consideration of a home escape plan. A window is usually going to be the second exit. Make sure it is not blocked by furniture and is easily operable by children. Screens must come off easily. If you have security bars, they must have inside quick release devices. Practice using them. If you live in a two story home, a fire escape ladder is a must. Have one for each occupied bedroom. They are available through larger hardware stores at a cost of about $ 35.00. They fold into a small box that fits under your bed.

GET OUT FAST once the alarm has sounded. Do not stop to dress or gather valuables. Don’t let the children look for favorite toys or even the family pet. We are discussing survival and you do not have the luxury of time. Fire moves FAST.

TEST DOORS BEFORE OPENING THEM to make sure it is safe on the other side. Feel the door and look for smoke seeping in around the edges. If you feel it is safe to open, then do so slowly and be prepared to slam it shut if heat and smoke rush in.

AN OUTSIDE MEETING PLACE should be decided upon in advance. Locate the meeting place well away from the house and make a rule: “ONCE OUT – STAY OUT”. As soon as two people have reached the meeting place, one should leave to call 911 at a neighbors house. The second member should stay to account for all other family members. If someone is missing do not go back inside, notify responding fire companies immediately upon arrival.

REHEARSING YOUR ESCAPE PLAN regularly is essential. A practiced routine will override panic in an emergency situation. Children who have had fire drill practice at home will automatically do the right thing in a real emergency. Without such practice they will usually hide under a bed or in a closet which can mean disaster. A small amount of time spent planning and rehearsing your escape plan may mean the difference between life and death in a fire. Don’t let it happen to you.