How to Prepare a Fire Escape Plan
Most fatal fires are preventable, so it is important to take the time to prepare now to protect yourself, your family, and your home. With the help of an amazing online Queensland Fire & Emergency Services (QFES) Fire Escape tool at qfes.qld.gov.au, you can quickly and easily prepare a Fire Escape Plan so that everyone can get out of your house safely in the event of a fire.
The Main Things to Consider
When creating a Fire Escape Plan, there are several important things to consider. The first thing QFES recommends is to make sure you know two ways to exit each room. You can also remind kids to feel any closed doors and not to touch the handle or open the door if it is hot. You can also teach kids that, if they are trapped on an upper floor with no way out, they should move to the room furthest from the smoke, place a rolled towel or clothing across the bottom of the door to block smoke entering the room, and open the window to call for help.
The next step is to plan your exit routes and practise following them. It is best to practise this by crawling, as it teaches kids to keep down low in case of smoke. It can also be done blindfolded to prepare kids in case they have to exit in the dark or in thick smoke. To limit the spread of smoke or flames, remember to close doors behind you but don’t lock them.
It is important to always keep keys to doors and windows close by. Your Fire Escape Plan should also cover who is responsible for getting the kids and helping others get out. You should designate a safe meeting place outside, where you can check that everyone has made it out safely. Call Triple Zero (000) and inform the emergency services if anyone is missing. Do not re-enter a burning house.
QFES Fire Escape Plan
In 2017, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services was called out to 524 home fires during winter alone. With some fires leaving residents with only 15 seconds to escape, it is vital to have a Fire Escape Plan in place for your family. QFES gives the following information to help families prepare for how to escape during a fire, which can be found on qfes.qld.gov.au:
- By shouting out and thumping the walls.
- Help children and others needing assistance, if it is safe to do so.
- Ensure window security grills can be unlocked.
- Remember, everyone should have a plan to get themselves out.
Follow your escape route
- Have two ways to escape every room.
- Crawl so as to minimise breathing toxic fumes or to avoid blinding smoke, which usually builds from the ceiling down.
- Feel any closed doors for signs of fire and avoid opening if they’re hot.
- To limit the spread of smoke or flames, close doors behind you as you proceed, but don’t lock them.
- Apartment residents should follow their building’s fire escape instructions.
Exit via door or window
- Keep door keys nearby and in reach of all. Use a window if doors are blocked by fire.
- Ensure window security grills can be unlocked.
- Don’t jump from a window, but lower yourself as far as you can to reduce the distance.
In extreme circumstances, be prepared to smash a window with a solid object to escape.
- Break the glass at the top of the window and work your way down.
- Use a blanket or mat against the window to protect yourself from glass.
- Consider throwing a mattress out the window to soften your fall.
What if you can’t get out?
- Move to the room furthest from the fire, preferably where you can be seen from the street or by neighbours.
- Place a rolled towel or clothing across the bottom of the door to block smoke entering the room.
- Open a window for fresh air and shout for help.
Meet at an agreed safe spot
- Account for all people in the house.
- If anyone is missing, inform the emergency services.
- Do not re-enter a burning house.
Call Triple Zero (000)
- Answer the operator’s questions.
- Stay on the phone until the operator hangs up.
Regularly go over your Fire Escape Plan
It is a great idea to identify the biggest fire dangers in your home, and to qfes.qld.gov.au regularly. QFES recommends practising in different ways to prepare for different possible situations, such as at night, with the lights off, standing and crawling. You can use the fire escape timer within this resource to make this a fun activity to do with the kids.
Get Your Home Fire Safe
A major part of fire safety is making sure your smoke alarms are checked regularly. The legislation on smoke alarms in homes has changed recently. To give your family the best chance of surviving a house fire, QFES recommends updating your smoke alarms to match the new legislation as soon as you can. In the meantime, you should make sure all your alarms are working and properly maintained. You can find more information about smoke alarms and the new legislation here.
Other ways to get your home fire safe is to ensure that escape routes, and that exits are not blocked with too much furniture or clutter. House locks can also slow down escapes. To make sure you can all get out quickly, it is recommended to use deadlocks that do not lock on the inside, to keep keys in a safe place near any doors that do lock, and to limit how many keys are needed by having locks keyed alike. These can all save precious seconds in the event of an emergency.
You can also learn How to Discuss a Fire Safety Plan with Your Kids here.