How to Make a Fire Escape Plan and Survive a House Fire

Imagine this: you’re sound asleep and snoring away. While you’re busy fighting zombies in your dreams, a fire breaks out. 

What do you do then?

If you have a fire escape plan, this will be the time you kick it into high gear.

Don’t have one? Then keep reading for home fire safety tips and a step-by-step guide to creating a fire escape plan:

How Threatening Is a House Fire?

a firefighter rescuing a burning building

Prepping isn’t just about gearing up for EMP attacks, the zombie apocalypse, or nuclear fallout.

It’s also about being ready for more common emergencies that have a bigger chance of killing you — like house fires.

Over 350,000 residential fires happen each year, causing millions in damages and injuring and killing thousands.

What makes fires so dangerous is how fast they spread. They can go from a tiny flame to a raging blaze in seconds. If you don’t get burned by the inferno, then it’s the thick smoke or toxic gases that will do you in.

It’s for these reasons that you need to plot out a fire escape plan. 

Home Fire Safety Tips

a person teaching about fire safety

The best way to survive a fire is by preventing it from happening in the first place. Check out these fire safety tips for your home:

Install Smoke Alarms

Get enough smoke alarms and check them regularly. We suggest interconnected alarms because when one activates, the rest go off at the same time. Your family will be alerted immediately, no matter where they are in the house.

Here are other things to consider:

  • Put smoke alarms on every floor of your home and outside each bedroom.
  • Remove dust and cobwebs from the alarms every month.
  • Test out all your alarms monthly.
  • Replace batteries of battery-powered smoke alarms at least once a year.
  • Install new smoke alarms every 10 years since they become less accurate as time passes.

Put Fire Extinguishers in Every Room

two fire extinguishers

Everyone and their mom knows fire extinguishers are essential in fire safety, but how many should you have at home?

Generally, you need to have at least one and keep it in the kitchen. But if you really wanna be prepared, it won’t hurt to place one in each room.

All your family members should learn how to use a fire extinguisher. You can teach them the PASS (Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep) method.

Keep these in mind, too:

  • Get ABC fire extinguishers. These can put out different types of fires.
  • Inspect all extinguishers regularly for damage.
  • Check whether the pin and tamper seals are still secure.
  • Have your extinguishers serviced every year.

Store Fuel Properly

fuel gauge

If you’re not cautious, the gas you stockpiled for your bug out vehicle may ignite and set your entire house on fire. You need to store it correctly, meaning at room temperature and separate from your residence (e.g., a shed or garage).

Other fuels like propane and kerosene should be placed in proper containers and storage conditions, too.

Inspect Your Doors and Windows

You should be able to open every door and window in your home without much trouble.

It’s best to go for single-cylinder deadbolt locks over the double-cylinder kind for your doors. With a double lock, you can’t flee to safety unless you have the right key. You shouldn’t bet your life on it. Several folks have died in fires because of double locks.

Also, if your windows have burglar bars for break-ins, ensure they have a quick-release feature so that no one gets trapped.

Oh, and don’t forget those thorny bushes you planted under your windows.

They might be great for home defense…but when it’s your turn to navigate through the pointy needles, it might get messy. You can take care of this problem by throwing a thick blanket over the plants.

Get Fire Escape Ladders

an apartment's fire escape

If your bedrooms are on a higher floor, then you need fire escape ladders. You don’t wanna risk jumping out your second-floor window and breaking a couple of bones.

It’s easy to find fire escape ladders online. When going through each option, consider how many floors you have, where you’ll store the ladders, how they’ll secure to windows, and what their weight capacity is.

This article should give you more insight into choosing the best ones.

Be Careful with Candles

Is the power out? Before you grab your favorite fire starter to light candles, better think twice.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) states that 7,610 home fires from 2014-2018 were caused by candles. A hefty chunk of those fires began in bedrooms.

If you need to see in the dark, let your family use flashlights instead.

Don’t Ignore Your Fireplace

Using your fireplace more often in the winter? We don’t blame you; it’s cozy as hell.

But you gotta cover it with a heavy-duty screen. This keeps sparks from the fire from going inside the room. Don’t forget to dump ashes properly, too. They should cool for a few days first. Then, put them in a metal container and add that to your trash bin.

Take Care of Your Chimney

workers maintaining a chimney

We can’t talk about fireplaces and leave out chimneys!

Your chimney isn’t there for decoration. It has an actual purpose, which is to transport flue gases out of your house. These gases come from your fireplace, furnace, or wood stove.

If you don’t want to put your household at risk of chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning, you need to take good care of your chimney. Get it checked and cleaned yearly. Also, inspect your flue regularly for things like debris, animal nests, and other obstructions.

Besides these, remember to stash matches out of kids’ reach, never overload electrical sockets, keep flammable items away from any heat source, and not smoke in bed. Common sense, okay?

Strategizing a Fireproof Fire Escape Plan

No SHTF plan is complete without plotting how you’ll bug out or escape. Your fire escape plan is no exception.  No matter how careful you think you are, you can’t take any chances and NOT have an evacuation plan in place.

Here are the steps to create an effective one:

Map Out the Exits

The first step of your fire escape plan is to draw a map to determine all the possible exits in your home. Ideally, each room should have at least 2 escape routes — doors leading to the outside and windows that everyone can escape through.

It’s also smart to highlight the spots where you stored your fire extinguishers.

If you’re staying in an apartment, your building should have a map of all the fire exits and stairs on your floor. Count how many doors there are from your room to the nearest exit. Be familiar with it because would you really use an elevator during a fire? No siree, not on your life.

Include Older Folks, Kids, and Pets

Don’t forget about these members of your family. They’ll need extra help escaping, so decide who’ll be in charge of guiding them out. Assign a backup person if the one responsible for rescuing them won’t be home.

Assign a Meeting Place

The next part of your fire escape plan should detail where your household will reassemble. Choose a meeting area that’s at a safe distance from your home. The driveway, a light post, or your buddy’s place two blocks down are good options.

Pack a Bug Out Bag

your fire escape plan should include bug out bags for the whole family

We’ve established how fast a tiny ember can transform into a sea of flames. You only have seconds to make a run for it, so stopping to grab a few things will be the stupidest thing you can do.

What we suggest is to pack a bug out bag filled with survival supplies. You can leave it somewhere along your escape routes or beside the exits. It has to be in a place that you can easily spot and reach, an area that won’t be engulfed by the furnace.

Know What to Do During a Fire

These next few parts of your fire escape plan involve the steps you need to take if an actual fire happens. Now you’ll obviously be under a ton of stress when your home is burning down, but if you know these beforehand, you may just save your family’s life:

Feel Doors Before Opening

Use the back of your hand to touch the door, the doorknob, and the space between the door and the doorframe.

Is it warm? Go for a different escape route. Is it cool to the touch? Open the door, but slowly. Otherwise, the flames that subsided may flare up again due to the rush of air.

If You’re Trapped

  • Don’t use the window to escape unless you’re secretly Spiderman, staying on your house’s first floor, or have an escape ladder. Wait for the firefighters to come for you.
  • If you can, leave the window open a bit at the top and bottom. This lets smoke leave and fresh air enter. Shut the window, though, if it draws in smoke.
  • Stop smoke from entering the room by sealing spaces and cracks in the door with duct tape or towels, if you’re in a pinch. Have a phone? Then call the fire department and let them know where you are. You can use a flashlight or a bright sheet to signal your exact location.

Get Low

The higher smoke is from the floor, the thicker and more deadly. If you’re left with no choice but to navigate through a smoke-filled area, stay low and crawl your way out.

Stop, Drop, and Roll

If your clothes catch on fire, act fast. Stop, drop to the ground, and roll back and forth to let the flames die out. That’ll keep you from turning into a human barbecue.

Discuss the Fire Escape Plan with Your Household

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It’s time to gather your family and review the map and plan. Everyone should be on the same page. Make sure they can identify the exits of every room, know where to find the fire extinguishers, and understand what to do during a fire.

Practice, Practice, and Practice Some More

You can’t just create a fire escape plan and be done with it. Put it to the test.

Test each escape route. Start simple by walking toward the exit, then make it more challenging by crawling. Since it may be hard to see during an actual fire, you might wanna try doing the drills blindfolded and using your other senses.

Let your family practice using the emergency ladders, too.

Time each drill and learn what your overall escape time is. In a fire, you may only have less than 2 minutes to get to safety, so aim to be as fast as you can.

Final Thoughts

House fires are one of the deadliest threats to your safety, but they’re easily preventable.

And with a fire escape plan you test again and again, you should be able to get out with only a few arm hairs singed off. Just follow the tips and advice we shared with you in this guide.

What does your fire escape plan look like? Share your tips below!

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