A mother and kids are going over the emergency escape plan.

A Homeowners Guide to Fire Safety

These Three Words Can Help Protect Your Family During a Fire

Updated: 10/1/2022

Tragically, each year thousands of people around the nation are impacted and injured in house fires. On average, U.S. fire departments respond to a fire every 23 seconds, and seven people die in the United States per day from home fires. Fire safety starts with the 3 Ps: Prevention, Plan and Practice – which are especially important for families with kids.

Be Informed

In the event that a fire breaks out in your home, you may have as little as two minutes to escape once the smoke alarm sounds. Here are some important facts you need to know that could potentially save your life:

  1. Fire is fast. In less than 30 seconds a small flame can turn into a major fire. It only takes a few minutes for thick black smoke to fill your home. On average, you have two minutes to escape.

  2. Smoke is thick and dark. In a fire, smoke is so thick and dark you may hardly see the flames. The thick smoke can be disorienting even in your own bedroom. Practice feeling your way out of the house with your eyes closed to ensure you are prepared.

  3. The smell of smoke won’t wake you. Contrary to popular belief, the smell of smoke will not wake you up. In fact, the poisonous gases will put you in a deeper sleep, making smoke detectors all the more vital.

  4. Sleep with the door shut. Always sleep with your door shut to minimize the spread of fire, smoke and poisonous gases.

  5. The heat is intense. At knee height, the temperature of a house fire may be about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. At shoulder height, temps may reach 690 degrees Fahrenheit. Staying low in a crawling position while you escape is your best bet.

  6. Don’t jump up out of bed. If you wake and sense a fire, do not jump up out of bed or sit up. Remember: the heat is more intense farther from the floor. Instead, roll out of bed onto the floor.

  7. Crawl to the door. After you roll onto the floor, crawl to the door — which should be closed while you sleep. Test it with the back of your hand both lower and higher up to see if it is hot. If it is, DO NOT OPEN! Instead, plan to use an alternate escape route.

  8. Try the door. If not hot to the touch, open the door slowly, approximately one to two inches only, bracing it firmly as pressure from gases may have built on the other side which could force the door to open quickly. If the air from behind the door is warm, do not use the hallways. Pull the door shut and use an alternate escape route, such as a window.

  9. Instruct your children. Shout to your children to stay in their rooms with the doors closed. Remind them to open a window no more than three inches to avoid drafts which tend to fan the flames. They should crouch at this window and breathe the fresh air that comes in.

  10. Crawl to safety. If you are able, crawl to safety via the hallways, keeping your head about one to two feet off the floor. Cover your nose and mouth with a cloth – preferably wet – and take short, shallow breaths.

  11. Don’t just jump out of a window. A hasty jump may cause an injury that could compromise you vacating the area or helping rescue others. Remain calm. If you must escape through a window without a ladder, hang from the sill by your hands first to lessen the drop – if you have to break the glass to exit, drape something over the sill to avoid cutting yourself.

  12. Stop, drop and roll. If your clothing catches fire remember to: STOP, DROP and ROLL. This can save your life and limit burn injuries. Stop where you are. Drop to the floor. Roll back and forth to smother the fire. Everyone in your family should learn and practice often, especially young children.

For homes with a professionally installed and monitored fire safety system, the homeowner is connected to potentially life-saving services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. While the family is following the escape plan, the system can send a message to a central monitoring station who will immediately contact the homeowner and dispatch the local emergency personnel.

Family Emergency Escape

A family is going over the fire emergency plan.

Fire Emergency Plan

According to an NFPA survey, only one out of every three American households develop and practice a home fire escape plan.

  • Install smoke alarms on every level and in each bedroom of your home and make sure to test them regularly. Test alarms regularly and change the batteries at least every six months or for convenient protection, upgrade to 10-year sealed battery alarms to eliminate the need for battery replacements.
  • Draw a map of your home, including all potential escape routes, and post it where everyone can see.
  • Together, visit each room and identify two ways out if one exit is blocked by fire.
  • Mark your map with the two routes each person should take in case of fire.
  • The map should include a meeting spot outside the home – like the tree in front of the neighbor’s house across the street.
  • Once outside, call 911 and never go back into the home during a fire.
  • Designate family members to be responsible for gathering kids or pets.
  • Get started by using this tool from Resideo’s First Alert team to help organize your escape plan.

Practice Fire Drills

Once you have a plan, practice a fire drill to ensure your emergency escape plan goes smoothly in the event of a real fire.

  • Have a fire drill with both day and night scenarios; practice it with all caretakers.
  • Time the drills. Did everyone get out in under two minutes? If not, practice until you reach your goal.
  • Make a commitment to practice at least once a year.
  • Regularly check windows to ensure they are not stuck and can be easily removed in the event of a fire.
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide alarms so everyone is familiar with the sound.
  • Ensure fire extinguishers are ready for use in the event you need them and you know how to use them.
  • Practice stop, drop and roll.