If you know me, you know I am all about preparing myself, my family, and my home for all of the possibilities life can throw at us. One of those possibilities that I’m hyper-vigilant about being prepared for is an emergency exit from our home. Maybe, it comes with the territory when being married to a Fire Captain. That’s why, we not only have a clear emergency exit plan from each room of our home, but we also communicate it with our children and practice it regularly.
My husband and I are using our combined 44 years of medical and emergency services experience to help others prepare their families and homes for the unexpected, too. Today, we’re talking all about creating and practicing emergency exit plans. But first, we tackle why you even need one in the first place.
Why Does My Family Need an Emergency Exit Plan?
I can’t stress enough how important it is to be prepared for any and all emergencies. Luck favors the prepared.
One specific type of emergency you should be prepared for is the type of emergency that will require exit from your home. The most common type of emergency that requires exit from your home is a house fire. But don’t forget about other common emergencies like gas leaks or evacuations. In any of these situations, you will have a very limited time to exit your home. Your life could depend on how quickly you do so.
If it becomes necessary to exit your home and you haven’t taken any steps to prepare yourself or your family for this possibility, lots could go wrong. There could be chaos and panic, kids could hide in dangerous places, and your family may become separated in the commotion and uncertainty. However, if your family has a clear exit plan that they’ve reviewed and practiced, the likelihood of all members of the family exiting the home safely increases tremendously.
How-to Create an Emergency Exit Plan
Creating an emergency exit plan for your home is likely easier than you’re thinking. Have you ever noticed that every room in a hotel has an emergency exit route posted clearly on the wall? Well, that got me thinking. And now we use the same idea in our own home!
The first step is to stand in each room of the house. Close your eyes and picture the fastest route out of your house from that room. Also consider alternate routes that can be used if the primary route is in some way blocked or obstructed. This will give you both a primary and a secondary exit plan for each room in your house.
If you’d like handy printable grids where you can draw out your exit plan from each room, grab our FREE family home emergency plan, right here.
Finally, be sure to establish a meeting place, outside, for your family. Whether it be a tree, a light post, or a neighbor’s house, it must be clear and known by all members of the family.
Why and How You Can Practice Your Exit Plan
There’s no use in having an emergency exit plan if you simply create it and then put it in a folder to never be seen again. You’ll need to share it with your family members, review it regularly, and have fun practicing it. You know the old saying, practice makes perfect?
Now I’m not sure “perfect” and emergency exit plan are two phrases you’d ever think of together, but, practicing your emergency exit plan can significantly cut down on the panic and confusion when there is an emergency and quick exit from the home is necessary.
In our family, we love to make a game out of practicing our emergency exit plan. We have each member of the family stand in their room. Then we blindfold them or ask them to close their eyes (this simulates trying to exit a dark or smoky house.) Next, we time how long it takes them to get out and make it to the meeting place. The winner gets all the bragging rights.
We’ll also make certain adjustments to make it more fun, interesting, and test our ability to be adaptable. We may say that they have to exit the home without the use of a certain door or without using a particular hallway. You can adapt things based on your own home, too! You also may have different types of emergencies in your area. Feel free to add your own scenarios into your practice. Just be sure to practice! The more your family is aware and prepared, the safer they will be.
For more information on getting your family and home prepared for any emergency, check out our FREE Family Home Emergency Plan. You can download it right here. Inside, you’ll also find tips for assembling emergency boxes, printable lists and trackers for assembling emergency information, and other important planning tools.
Most people know they should have emergency supplies ready to go, but you may not be sure where to start, what to gather, and then what to do with it all. That’s why we’ve come up with a system for gathering, organizing/packing, and storing our emergency supply boxes.
Yes, I said boxes. We believe that to be completely prepared for any emergency, you need to have three specific emergency boxes assembled. You can find lists of suggested items to include in your emergency kit at FEMA or the Red Cross, but we take things a little bit further. In our home, we’ve divided our emergency supplies into three specific kits or boxes: a Stay-Home Box, a Leave-Home Box, and a Food Box.
Having emergency supply boxes prepped and ready to go is a must, especially for those of us who live in areas that are prone to natural disasters like wildfires, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and flooding.
Here is a quick guide to how we assemble and organize our three emergency supply boxes/kits.
We recommend packing your boxes in three separate clear containers and clearly marking each: Home, Leave, or Food.
The Stay-Home Box
This is the box you will need if there is an emergency and you are stuck IN your home for an extended amount of time, possibly without electricity, heat, or other utilities. This box will consist of items that you might not typically have around your house for everyday use.
Here are 5 items we suggest you include in your Stay-Home box:
Flashlight with extra batteries
Hand Crank Radio
For a complete list of what you’ll want to have in your Stay-Home box, click here.
The Leave-Home Box
This box will have items you’ll need if you are forced to evacuate your home. If you evacuate, you will also want to take your Stay box and your Food box, plus water.
Here are 5 items we suggest you include in your Leave-Home box:
To view an extensive list of what to include in your leave box, click here.
The Food Box
This box will, obviously, be filled with food. You’ll want to store this box in your home, but also grab it in case of an evacuation.
Here are 5 food items we suggest you include in your Food box:
Canned Fruit and Vegetables
Canned soup, stews, and meat
MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat)
These are just our recommendations, please feel free to add and remove items based on your taste and dietary restrictions. Remember to have a variety of items and not to include things that can easily spoil without refrigeration. To view our full list, click here.
Don’t Just Store them and Forget Them!
You may think that creating emergency supply boxes is simply gathering the water, food, and supplies, putting them in a box, storing them in a closet, and then (hopefully) never thinking about them again.
The truth is, your emergency plans and supplies need to be checked and reviewed quarterly. Some items will have expiration dates and others will completely stop working as time passes. I suggest making it a habit to go through the items in your boxes to check dates and replace/update items 4 times a year. One way to make this a habit is to do it on the first day of each season.
If you’d like a full list of what we put in each of our boxes plus a handy checklist for keeping track of what’s in your boxes and each item’s expiration date, check out our FREE Family Home Emergency Plan. You can download itright here. Inside, you’ll also find tips for preparing your home, printable lists and trackers for assembling emergency information, and other important planning tools.
As a former scout and medic and a current fire captain, I love getting outdoors and hiking. I’ve had so many personal backpacking and camping adventures. Now, I’m happy to share my passion with my family. We try to get out at least once a week for family hikes. Lately, we’ve noticed an increase in those we see hiking, both on the trails alongside us and sharing their pics on social media.
If you’re new to hiking or just looking for some reassurance that you are prepared for anything on the trail, we’re here for you! We’re sharing tips for planning and packing for family hikes and what to do if something goes wrong. We hope you learn something new here. Remember, everyone has to start somewhere!
5 Things to Consider When Planning Family Hikes
Pick a trail that is age appropriate for your kids.
Younger kids may like trails that are more scenic and flat. If your kids are older, they may be up for the challenge of going on more adventurous family hikes. If you have young children and older ones, you can use a backpack style kid carrier for your younger kiddos and still hit those more challenging trails.
But where do I find these trails? Fear not!
There are countless resources on the internet if you just search “best hiking trails for kids (insert location here).” I use an app called AllTrails. It gives ratings provided by other users based on difficulty level, scenery, and any other notable particulars.
Pack a first aid kit.
Your first aid kit for the average family hikes doesn’t have to be an all out apocalyptic survival bag. It just needs the basics, like bandages of different sizes, antiseptic wipes, anti-itch cream, and antibiotic wipes.
If you’re going on longer hikes, consider adding a whistle and signaling mirror to call for help if needed, iodine tablets for water, and moleskin for blisters. You can shop our take-along first aid kits right here.
Bring plenty of water and snacks.
This one is really important. There are different varieties of water carrying options. You can use a water bottle, water bladder, or even a water backpack. The key is to continually hydrate throughout your hike rather than chugging it when you take a rest or make it to the summit.
Ideally, you should be drinking small sips every 15-20 minutes. You may want to drink more often in higher elevations and when the weather is colder. It’s a good idea to bring some electrolyte packets or sports drinks, too, but be mindful of the sugar content of some of those sports drinks.
Don’t forget your maps and/or GPS.
Most mobile phones have GPS and mapping apps that will keep track of your location while you’re out and about. Like I mentioned above, we prefer to use an app called AllTrails, but there are some other great ones, too. If you’re in a remote area with no cell service, you can still use GPS or a good ‘ole-fashion paper map and compass. Knowing your exact location will help you summon emergency services if needed.
You’ll need sunscreen and bug protection.
Sunscreen is important even if you feel like you’re being shaded. It’s especially important on open trails with no natural sun protection. Make sure you’re using the appropriate sunscreen for your skin type.
When it comes to bug protection, we prefer to use products with a picaridin or DEET. Those products seem to be more effective. There are even some outdoor clothing manufactures who impregnate the fabric with picaridin!
Dress appropriately and be prepared for any changes in weather.
Before you head out, make sure you take a look at the weather forecast. There are many times you may start out on a hot sunny day and then it starts raining on you. This occurs quite frequently in higher elevations.
Good sturdy shoes are a must. If you’re just heading out for an easy day hike on a flat trail any closed toe shoe will do (this goes for the kiddos too if they’re walking). Who knows when you or your kids will unintentionally kick a rock…OUCH!
If you’re going for a longer or more challenging hike, good shoes are a must. Speaking of musts, good socks prevent blisters. I use wool socks or a synthetic derivative such as Smartwool.
4 Things to Have on Hand.
Snacks for the kids. Make sure it’s something they really like!
Binoculars to look at nature without getting too close.
A notebook with crayons or colored pencils. This is a great activity for kids who like to draw and journal their findings on their hiking adventure. Many state and national parks have junior ranger programs. They have activity books and scavenger hunts so that your kids can earn their junior ranger badge.
A good size, comfortable backpack. For me, I do not skimp on the backpack. Since I’m usually the one carrying everything, I want to be comfortable. There are also hydration backpacks and options to add a water bladder to your existing pack.
3 Common Hiking Injuries and How to Treat Them.
Scrapes or abrasions:
The most common are scraped knees and elbows when you or your child trip on the trail. The best thing to do is use water to rinse out any dirt or debris in the wound, place an antibacterial ointment on, and an appropriately sized bandage. The key is to thoroughly clean and scrub out the wound with soap and water when you get back home.
You certainly can receive deeper cuts when on family hikes. It can be from a fall or from scraping a sharp rock or a branch. The best thing is to keep them clean until you can get more advanced care.
If you receive a deeper cut that requires stitches, first rinse it out with clean water and remove any larger debris. Apply antibiotic ointments to the area and cover it with clean bandages or dressing. You can use skin glue with a combination of steri-strips (wound closure strips) to seal up the wound if you’re not close and able to quickly receive advanced medical help.
Bug and animal bites:
Generally most small bug bites are not serious unless you have an allergy to them. For most, it’ll just be redness to the area, minor swelling, and itchiness. Those can be treated with some ice packs and anti-itch cream to the area. You can consider some antihistamines as well.
If the person that you’re treating starts developing more serious signs and symptoms of an allergy like decreased or altered mental status, difficulty breathing, tongue swelling, or hives all over the body, they need immediate medical assistance. Call 911 or find a way to get help immediately.
There are animals and bugs that are dangerous to humans and they vary from region-to-region. You need to be aware and research what they look like before heading out. That way you can avoid them or know what to do if you get bit by one.
Hopefully you’ve found this guide to family hikes easy to use and super informative! If you’re looking for more info on common kid emergencies, check out our FREE handbook for moms! And don’t forget to grab a PreparaKit if you don’t already have one.
Recently, I interviewed a real life Fire Captain about all things fire prevention and what to do if a fire does break out. We broke the interview down into a few blog posts so that you can easily find the information you are looking for. In the first blog post, we covered preventative items to have in your home. This time, we’re talking about real life fire scenarios he’s seen and what you and your family can do if you find yourselves in one of these situations.
For families, knowing what to do in the instance of an emergency is extremely important. In our house, my Fire Captain husband is often away overnight and for long shifts. That makes it even more important that my kids and I are prepared for anything that comes our way.
Here are 6 real life fire scenarios and what you can do if you find yourself in these situations:
Not knowing how to shut off utilities.
This would be water, electricity, and gas. Recently, a dad was replacing a water faucet at his house and he hadn’t shut off his water. He ended up flooding his entire second floor and the fire department had to respond to help him shut it off.
It’s good to know how to shut off your gas, especially on the west coast, incase of an earthquake You also want to know how to shut off your electricity at the breaker panels in case of an emergency.
You can find resources online with your utility providers to help you in locating the shut offs for each utility.
Starting an oven fire.
Oven fires can happen when you leave something in the oven for too long or when grease makes its way down to the heating element. I did this once when I was making tacos!
If you have an oven fire, you can close the oven door, which will cut off the oxygen supply to the fire or sprinkle some water into the oven. The water will expand into steam and steam will put out the fire.
If it is beyond that, just close the oven door and call 911.
Putting Metal in the Microwave.
Some people might think this is common knowledge, but based on the number of calls my husband has been on for this, I now know it’s not! This means don’t put utensils, tin foil, or any metal containers in the microwave. It’s also important to make sure your kids and teenagers know this one, too!
Your microwave manual should say not to microwave anything that could be magnetic. The microwave will react with the metal and cause it to overheat and possibly blow out your microwave.
Overloading your power outlets.
This is a big one! Many people use power strips and extension cords with multiple outlets to plug in things like heaters. They will even plug a power strip into another power strip, and then into another like a daisy chain. Sometimes, 6 cords running off of each other. This can cause a huge fire in the wall because it overloaded the circuit and melted the cords.
Things like electrical heaters use a lot of power and create a lot of heat. The cords get hot and can melt. If they are touching any furniture or cloth, this can cause a fire.
Don’t daisy chain or overload power strips or outlets. Plug directly into the wall or get an extension cord that is the proper length.
Leaving a bathroom fan on all day.
Bathrooms fans are not designed to run more than a few hours at a time. When you run a bathroom fan for more than a few hours, it can cause the motor to overheat and start a fire. Oftentimes, based on the placement of the bathroom fan, this will lead to a dangerous attic fire.
You can install a timer on your bathroom fan so that it will turn off after a set amount of time, preventing the motor from overheating and causing a fire.
Dropping a turkey into a deep fryer.
Lots of people love to deep fry their turkeys around the holidays but it might be more dangerous than you think! If you drop a turkey into a deep fryer too quickly it will cause a huge raging inferno ball that can harm those nearby and spread to other areas. The inferno ball can spread to an awning, fabric umbrella, or even the house.
But what do you do if you find yourself in one of these situations?
You can always be prepared ahead of time by having a plan! Practice your exit plan at home with fire drills. Hey, why not, the kids do them at school, do them at home, too. This will help to eliminate panic.
You don’t want your child to be scared and hide. You can go to your local fire station and introduce your child to fire fighters. Ask them to put on all of their gear so your child will know what they look like and sound like in full gear so they will feel comfortable and less anxious if they do see a firefighter in a dangerous situation.
If there is a fire in the home, get out as quickly as possible and call 911. If you are trapped, put towels under the doors to keep the smoke out and stay low.
Bonus Tip: Sleep with your bedroom door closed!
This might not seem like a big deal, but we’ve seen situations where an entire apartment was destroyed with the exception of the bedroom that had the door shut. If you don’t believe me, go check out my Instagram post about it, right here.
You can never prepare for an emergency enough. The thing about an emergency is you’ll never know when it is going to happen. When it does happen you’ll wish you had prepared more but it’s also the worst time to think about should have or would haves. Take some time to collect and check on the items mentioned here to remain as prepared as possible for a home fire emergency!
Recently, I was honored to interview a Paramedic Fire Captain Live on my Facebook page. BTW, this fire captain is pretty special to me. He’s my hubby, Dave Nguyen! He became a paramedic in 1998 and he joined the department as a firefighter in 2002. He’s worked in busy areas, has seen many different types of calls and he has loads of experience to bring all of us.
We covered a lot of great info on preparing your home and your family for a potential fire. You can catch the entire 36 minute video right here. I definitely suggest taking the time to watch the entire video. There are so many great preparedness tips shared throughout.
Additionally, I thought it would be helpful to organize the preparedness tips and suggestions by topic and get them up here on the blog so you can more easily search and find the info you’re looking for at quick glance.
In this post, we’ll be covering the top preventative items you should have in your home. These are things that you can have in your home to help prevent a fire related emergency. Some of these might seem obvious to you but there are others that you may or may not have ever even thought about before.
Here are the top 5 preventative items you should have in your home in case of a fire emergency:
One of the most important preventative items you want to make sure you have in your home are fire extinguishers. If you have a multi-level house, you’ll want a fire extinguisher on each level. Definitely have one in your kitchen and then another on each other level of your home.
There are even fire extinguishers made specifically for kitchens. They are usually white and you can find those at any hardware store. The red extinguishers are general purpose and can also be purchased at a hardware store.
Make sure that your fire extinguishers are up to date by checking the little window is green.
You can also keep a fire blanket handy in your kitchen for small fires. We just bought a bunch from Prepared Hero, but any wool blanket will do! These are something that even kids can easily use to put out small fires like stove top fires. All they need to do is throw it over the flames. Plus, they’re very easy and convenient to store.
Smoke detectors are a very important preventative item to have in your home. You’ll need one smoke detector for each level of your home as well as one for each bedroom. Here in California, it is law that new builds have a smoke detector in every room of the house.
Be sure to check the batteries every six months and check the device’s expiration date which will likely be about 5-7 years.
You also want carbon-monoxide detectors on each level of the house. Carbon-monoxide is a byproduct of combustion. It is a colorless and odorless gas. Since it is colorless and odorless, this gas is especially dangerous. It is more common than you might think for a family to go to bed and not wake up due to carbon-monoxide poisoning.
As with smoke detectors, be sure to check the batteries every six months and check the device’s expiration date which will likely be about 5-7 years
Your family should have a clear plan for how you will get out of the house in case of an emergency. You don’t just want to have a plan in place, but you also want to practice that plan with your family.
How do you develop an exit plan? Well, you go into every room of the house and think, “If I am trapped in this room, how do I get out?” You can then draw a map and review it with your child so they are sure of how they can get out of their room.
You can even make it fun by blindfolding your kids to simulate not being able to see in a room full of smoke, and have them practice escaping the house. See who can get out of the house fastest. Just make sure each child has a guide to prevent any accidents while competing.
If you have a multi-level home, you may want to purchase escape ladders, especially for the bedrooms. These are easy to store in a closet and can be thrown out of a window in case of a fire for easy escape from a second floor room.
You can now get smoke detector/carbon-monoxide detector combos and some will even integrate with a company that will monitor both and notify you if there is an issue. We use SimpliSafe, but most of the major security system suppliers, like ADT and Frontpoint, will provide this service.
You can never prepare for an emergency enough. The thing about an emergency is you’ll never know when it is going to happen. When it does happen you’ll wish you had prepared more but it’s also the worst time to think about should have or would haves. Take some time to collect and check on the preventative items mentioned here to remain as prepared as possible for a home fire emergency!
It’s hard to let yourself imagine the gut wrenching feeling you’d experience if you turned around in a crowded store, then turned back and saw your child was gone. Your face would get hot, you’d begin breathing rapidly, and panic would quickly set in. This is a feeling I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Our children are so precious, the thought of one of them being lost, missing, or having wandered off is unbearable.
Kids can go missing from almost anywhere and it can happen in a matter of seconds. Crowded public places, a playground or park, or even your own front yard are all common places from which children are reported missing. According to the US Bureau of National Crime Information Center, a child becomes missing or abducted every 40 seconds. Let that sink in. Every 40 seconds.
I can’t imagine having come up with a plan for this type of situation or any amount of preparation would ease the panic you’d feel if your child were missing. There are some steps you can take that will help to ensure the best possible outcome for your child.
Here are 4 simple tips to follow to increase your chances of locating a missing child:
Speak openly with your children about dangers.
Communicate regularly, and in an age appropriate manner, with your children about the dangers of wandering off, getting lost, or being abducted.
Be sure they know what you would and wouldn’t ask them to do. For instance, run through hypothetical situations with them. Go over what you want them to do if someone offered them a ride, asked them for directions or help around their car, or made them feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
Make sure they know who safe people are and where to find them. In stores, this might be security guards or store employees. Outside it could be police, firefighters, or park rangers.
Encouraging them to memorize their address and your cell phone number at an early age. You can begin to prepare your child for a worse case scenario in a non-intimidating way by making it like a game.
Always keep a current image of your child on you.
If your child goes missing, it is incredibly important to have an up-to-date image of them. You can share this image with security and/or authorities right away. This simple tip has become so much easier now that we all keep a phone with a camera on us basically 24/7. If you’re like me, you’ve got new photos of your kids on your phone just about every day.
Whenever there is a significant change to your child’s appearance, like a hair cut, be sure to snap a photo of them with a clear view of their face. Also make sure your images are being backed up somewhere so that you can access the images even if you don’t have your phone on you at the time.
Know what your child is wearing.
As best as you can, each day, make a mental note of what your child is wearing. Particularly take note of any distinguishing features like a character, colors, or design on the clothing. Try to remember brand names and sizes, if possible.
Also be aware of the things your child carries on them at all times. If they are younger, this might be a favorite toy. As they get older, this might be a piece of jewelry, a wallet, or cell phone.
Have a comprehensive record containing your child’s DNA and fingerprints.
Collect all of your child’s important information and samples and keep them together in a safe place. You’ll want to include things like their full name, medical and dental records, identifying marks like scars and birthmarks, and finally their school information. Have a list of your child’s closest friends and numbers where you can contact them.
Additionally it’s important to have DNA samples and fingerprints for each of your children. If you want to gather all of this information and have it in one safe space, consider putting together a child identification record for each of your children.
A child can go missing in the blink of an eye. If that happens, I know you want to be as calm and as prepared as possible. That way you can locate and reunite with your missing child.