The last thing most of us expect in the safety of our own homes is an unforeseen and extreme event like a house fire. We see events like this on TV, or hear about them third-person, and think it can never happen to us. In fact, these types of events are more common than you may think as there were 365,500 house fires in 20151, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
If a fire does occur, a few seconds can make a big difference to help you and your family escape swiftly and safely. These tips can help you create a house fire evacuation plan:
- Plan for everyone. Take into account the special needs of everyone in your household, including young children and elderly family members who may not be very mobile. Children don’t always wake when a smoke alarm sounds. Make sure someone is assigned to help them, and choose a backup person in case the assigned person is away at the time of the fire.
- Find two ways out. Visit each room of your house and find two ways out, including windows and doors. Make sure all escape routes open easily so you can get outside, and install emergency release devices on any security bars on doors or windows.
- Involve children in planning. Consider having your children help create a fire evacuation plan2. Draw a map of the home and have children mark two exit routes and the locations of smoke detectors.
- Choose a meeting spot. Decide on a meeting place outside, such as a neighbor’s house, mailbox or stop sign. It should be in the front of the house so emergency responders can see you when they arrive. Agree not to go back into the house after you leave.
- Check smoke alarms. Check that smoke detectors are properly placed and working. The National Fire Protection Association recommends installing them in every sleeping room, outside each sleeping room and on every level of the home.3
- Be visible. Make sure that your house number can be seen quickly from the street by emergency responders.
- Respond quickly. Make sure everyone knows that if the smoke alarm sounds, he or she needs to get out immediately.
- Have a backup plan. If the planned exit routes are blocked and it’s not possible to leave the house, close all doors between you and the fire. Place a towel under the door and go to an exterior-facing window. Call the fire department to report your location.
- Share with everyone. Go over the plan with everyone who lives in the house and with visitors and overnight guests.
- Practice regularly. Practice and review the plan regularly (at least once a year).
With a smart and well thought-out plan in place, you can be one step ahead of the unexpected when you may not have the time or ability to think things through.
If you follow these common sense steps, you will be taking the most important steps to ensuring you avoid an accident.
- Develop the right attitude about driving. Many teen auto accidents are a result of attitude and maturity, not skills or knowledge. Make a commitment to yourself to practice a responsible attitude about driving. You’re controlling over 3,000 pounds of fast-moving metal, and you owe it to yourself, your passengers and other drivers to drive responsibly.
- Get as much supervised practice driving as possible. Your parents should take an active role in your practice driving. Make a firm schedule with them and stick to it. And keep it up until you take your test to get a license.
Many states now have graduated licensing laws. To learn about the laws in your state visit the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
- ALWAYS wear your safety belt. Get into the habit of wearing a safety belt whenever you are in a car, whether as a driver or a passenger – no exceptions.
- Underage drinking and drug use is illegal. Even if you’ve consumed only one drink or smoked one joint, there is a chemical effect on your brain that can impair judgment and reaction time. Driving under the influence of alcohol, marijuana or other drugs can cost you your license – or your life. Visit Above the Influence for more facts on drug use.
- Limit your passengers. The risk of a fatal crash increases with every additional passenger. When you’re a new driver, it is best to limit your number of passengers.
- Limit your night driving. The risk of a fatal crash is three times higher at night than in the day for every mile driven. It’s better to avoid nighttime driving until you’re comfortable driving during the day.
- Keep it slow and safe for starters. Fast-moving, high volumes of traffic can make you feel uncomfortable, so avoid them until you can get enough supervised driving experience. Then you can gradually introduce more difficult driving situations, like highway driving, merging and driving in cities.
- Train for poor weather conditions. Even when you begin to feel confident driving on dry pavement, it’s best to avoid driving in bad weather conditions unsupervised. Keep it simple at first, and get as much supervised practice driving in poor weather as you can before trying it on your own.
- Cell phones are for emergency use only on the road. One of the worst habits anyone can get into is talking on a cell phone while driving. Keep a cell phone with you in the car for emergency situations only. If you have to use a cell phone, pull safely over to the side of the road.
- Drive a safe vehicle. If you are thinking of getting your own car, look for one with high safety ratings. Avoid small cars, trucks or sport utility vehicles. Check out federal statistics and consumer report literature to help to evaluate the safety rating of a car or truck. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (the people who do the crash tests) offers valuable vehicle and safety test advisories.