Fire Escape Planning

Your ability to get out depends on advance warning from smoke alarms and advance planning. Make a plan and test the plan. Ensure to conduct regular drills with everyone in your house.

Make a Fire Escape Plan

Use a graph to draw a basic floor plan of your home or apartment. Draw all floors in your home, including all windows and doors. Label each sleeping area. Show stairways and number of stairs at each stairway. Show two ways out of each room (usually a door and a window) by using arrows. After you have drawn your floor plan, discuss the escape routes with everyone in your home.

  • Pull together everyone in your household and make a plan. Walk through your home and inspect all possible exits and escape routes. Households with children should consider drawing a floor plan of your home, marking two ways out of each room, including windows and doors. Also, mark the location of each smoke alarm. This is a great way to get children involved in fire safety in a non-threatening way.
  • Everyone in the household must understand the escape plan. When you walk through your plan, check to make sure the escape routes are clear and doors and windows can be opened easily.
  • Choose an outside meeting place (such as a neighbor's house, a light post, mailbox, or stop sign) a safe distance in front of your home where everyone can meet after they've escaped. Make sure to mark the location of the meeting place on your escape plan.
  • Go outside to see if your street number is clearly visible from the road. If not, paint it on the curb or install house numbers to ensure that responding emergency personnel can find your home.
  • Have everyone memorize the emergency phone number of the fire department. That way any member of the household can call from a neighbor's home or a cellular phone once safely outside.
  • If there are infants, older adults, or family members with mobility limitations, make sure that someone is assigned to assist them in the fire drill and in the event of an emergency. Assign a backup person too, in case the designee is not home during the emergency.
  • If windows or doors in your home have security bars, make sure that the bars have emergency release devices inside so that they can be opened immediately in an emergency. Emergency release devices won't compromise your security - but they will increase your chances of safely escaping a home fire.
  • Tell guests or visitors to your home about your family's fire escape plan. When staying overnight at other people's homes, ask about their escape plan. If they don't have a plan in place, offer to help them make one. This is especially important when children are permitted to attend "sleepovers" at friends' homes. See NFPA's "Sleepover fire safety for kids" fact sheet (attached).
  • Be fully prepared for a real fire: when a smoke alarm sounds, get out immediately. Residents of high-rise and apartment buildings may be safer "defending in place."
  • Once you're out, stay out! Under no circumstances should you ever go back into a burning building. If someone is missing, inform the fire department dispatcher when you call. Firefighters have the skills and equipment to perform rescues.

Test Your Fire Escape Plan

Practice the plan with a realistic fire drill so that when the smoke alarm sounds, family members will immediately move to a safe location outside of the home. Get the entire family involved!

  • Teach everyone in your home how to unlock and open the windows and doors.
  • Teach your kids: 
    • To touch doors to see if they are hot before opening. If so, use an alternate route.
    • How to cover their nose and mouth to reduce smoke inhalation.
    • Not to hide from firefighters. Uniforms can be very scary in times of crisis. Firefighters are there to help.
    • To never go back inside the burning house.
  • Since most home fires occur in the early morning hours, have your family (including children, baby-sitter, and older family members) pretend they are sleeping.
  • Make the house dark as if it is smoke filled.
  • Begin the fire drill with the sounding of your smoke alarm, making sure everyone can clearly hear and recognize the sound.