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Guide to a Fire Evacuation Plan

Fires and burns are the third leading cause of deaths in U.S. homes. Avoid becoming a statistic by ensuring that everyone in your home knows what to do when fire strikes. With a little preparation and practice, you can rest easy knowing that you can react quickly and safely during a crisis.

Creating an Exit Plan

Where are exits in each room? If possible, identify at least two escape routes, such as a door and a window. Also choose a place to meet outdoors, away from your home. A neighbor's yard or a nearby light pole is a good spot that is easily remembered and seen and won't interfere with the work of firefighters.

If you live in an apartment, make sure everyone knows the building's closest fire exits.

Practice Makes Perfect

Set a time to talk about and rehearse the escape plan with everyone in your household. Begin by pointing out each room's exits and the location of fire extinguishers. Practice how you would react, exit and meet once everyone escapes from the home. The importance of not returning to your home for any reason should be stressed. When someone or a pet is missing, tell the firefighters. They are the experts in finding and rescuing loved ones from burning buildings.

Include emergency ladders in your trial run. Everyone needs to know how to use them and not hesitate when climbing down from the second or third floors. An opportunity to practice unlocking and opening windows and removing screens is important, particularly for children. And since youngsters could become scared by the sound of smoke alarms, set off an alarm so they will know how they sound and how to react.

Breathing in smoke can be more dangerous than the actual fire. Luckily, it can often be worked around. Since smoke rises, breathable air and visible space can generally be found just above the floor, so include crawling toward the exits in your trial run. Also, let everyone know that placing a cloth over your mouth will help in breathing in a smoke-filled room.

In apartment buildings, always take the stairs and never the elevators during a fire. Before leaving your apartment, lock the door once everyone is out.

Experts suggest that you practice your plan twice a year. This way everyone will easily remember what to do if the unthinkable happens.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Federal Emergency Management Agency

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