Consider this scenario: It’s two o’clock in the morning. You and your family are fast asleep when you awaken to the smoke alarm sounding and the smell of smoke. What do you do? If you and your family don’t have an escape plan in place, it could jeopardize your safety, or even prove deadly.
In a typical home fire, you may have as little as one to two minutes to escape safely from the time the smoke alarm sounds. That’s why home escape planning is so critical in a fire situation. It ensures that everyone in the household knows how to use that small window of time wisely.
On September 19, Gov. Phil Scott signed a proclamation declaring Fire Prevention Week, adding the theme “Every Second Counts- Plan 2 Ways Out”.
An effective plan should include two ways out – a door and an operable escape window – for every sleeping room. The window sash must be low enough – maximum of 44 inches off the floor and unobstructed to allow young children and the elderly access. Windowless bedrooms, particularly those in basements, pose a significant threat to loss of life in a fire and should be avoided if possible. With no window, you are strictly limited to one way out and this pathway maybe easily obstructed by smoke and heat leaving you with no escape route. Additionally, windowless rooms will delay rescue operations and prevent you from breathing fresh air.
In support of Fire Prevention Week, the Division of Fire Safety and the Vermont Fire Service encourages all Vermonters to develop a plan together and practice it. In addition to two ways out, a home escape plan includes working photo-electric type smoke alarms on every level of the home, in every bedroom, and near all sleeping areas. It’s also good to clear a path to an outside meeting place (like a tree, light pole, or mailbox) that’s a safe distance from the home. The Division of Fire Safety is working in coordination with the Vermont Fire Service and the National Fire Protection Association to reinforce these potentially life-saving messages. NFPA and the Division of Fire Safety offer these additional tips and recommendations for developing and practicing a home escape plan.
Draw a map of your home with all members of your household, marking two exits from each room and a path to the outside from each exit.
Practice your home fire drill twice a year. Conduct one at night and one during the day with everyone in your home, and practice using different ways out.
Teach children how to escape on their own in case you can’t help them.
Make sure the number of your home is clearly marked and easy for the fire department to find.
Close doors behind you as you leave — this may slow the spread of smoke, heat, and fire.
Once you get outside, stay outside. Never go back inside a burning building.
For more information visit www.firesafety.vermont.gov To learn more about this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign and home escape planning, visit firepreventionweek.org.
Executive Director, Division of Fire Safety