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.
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!