No one wants to believe that a catastrophic event like a fire can happen to them, but it unfortunately happens to many families every single year. According to the US Fire Administration’s data for 2013, there were over a million house fires resulting in thousands of deaths and 11.5 billion dollars of loss and property damage.

You can define the difference between tragedy and safety as how you plan and prepare for such an event. However, according to the Red Cross, only around 10 percent of families have practiced an actual fire escape plan. So how can you make sure your family knows what to do in the event of a fire? These 5 fire safety steps you can take might be the difference between your safety and a tragic disaster.

  1. Communicate
  2. When all members of your family know the best process for exiting the home in case of a fire, there is a much better chance of everyone making it out safely. It’s imperative for you to be open and honest with one another about fire preparedness and fire safety. Walk through your home and draw a floor plan, making sure to identify two ways out of each room.

    If your young ones aren’t aware of the effects of a house fire, it’s important to calmly educate what how important it is and what they can look for in case of an emergency. Have them help draw up the escape plan so they can visualize how it looks on paper. Teach all children how to call 9-1-1 and how to use it appropriately.

  3. Establish Roles
  4. If you have an infant or a senior in your home, it’s important to establish who in your family will tend to those who cannot make it out safely without assistance. Most children over three years old can recognize the sound of a smoke alarm, but beyond that, most children need help from an adult or older sibling to exit safely. Only 1 in 5 households with children aged 3-17 have a fire safety plan, making established roles more important.

    Households of people with disabilities tend to be better prepared for such an emergency with 70% having a specific plan for evacuation, but most of these family members have less of an ability to identify another way out if one way is blocked or evacuate the home without the help of someone else. Ensuring that someone immediately goes to their assistance ensures that they all get out of the house safe and sound.

  5. Identify all Exits
  6. Whether you are in an apartment or a single family home, you need to identify what exits should be taken in the event of an emergency. Everyone needs to know where to exit and an alternative exit. Fire safety experts recommend at least two exits for each person. Consider any obstacles in the way such as bars on the windows or furniture that might block your chosen exits. Making a visual for your kids can help this make sense.

    If you live in an apartment building or high-rise complex, know your exit plan and stay low. Never use the elevator. If you can’t get to the hallway because of smoke or fire, call your fire department and tell them your location. Close all doors around you and create a seal around the door with duct tape, towels, blankets, whatever is available to you. If you’re in a room with a window, stay near it and open it, but don’t break it in case you need to close it again to prevent outside smoke from coming into the room.

  7. Meeting Place
  8. One of the most over looked fire safety tips is choosing a meeting place outside of your home where everyone should meet immediately after fleeing your home. Again, you should have a main meeting place and an alternate in case the main one is not safe. Good places to start are on your front sidewalk or at a neighbor’s house. As long as you are as far away from the fire as possible and everyone in your family knows where to meet, you will be okay.

  9. Practice
  10. There’s a reason to follow the old saying “practice makes perfect.” The more you and your family run through the fire drill, the better off you all will be if a fire emergency were to happen. Make sure to practice the fire safety plan with the whole family multiple times until it becomes second nature. Don’t be militant around these drills, but gently coax your family through the process, warning them when you plan to have drill.

    The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) suggests that you run these drills twice a year. Such drills can show any faults in your escape plan and you can adjust it accordingly.

    If you haven’t already, make sure to test the batteries in your fire alarm regularly. ADT can add an extra layer of security to your fire plan by monitoring for signs of fire and will alert you and the fire department immediately upon detection.

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