We know everyone hears it often, but the importance of a proper home escape plan needs to be communicated and repeated by as many sources as possible. After all, the goal is to keep your family safe!
We believe that every insurance company should also take an active role in communicating this message to their valued policyholders or members.
Fire safety is ultimately your responsibility, but local fire departments and schools attempt to provide fire safety education necessary for students starting at a very young age. The educational tools may include providing Fire Safety handbooks to children, showing video or images of fire hazards and asking students to actively participate in creating a home escape plan for their family. It is always stressed that when a fire occurs, there is no time to waste! We agree.
Having the entire family involved in creating your step-by-step plan for escaping fire is important. It allows an opportunity for discussion, gives parents a chance to answer questions, and lets everyone know that their input is valued.
WHAT YOUR HOME ESCAPE PLAN NEEDS
Start by drawing the floor plan of your home, be sure to clearly mark two ways out of every room, especially the bedrooms. There should be a discussion about the escape routes with every family member in your household.
Agree on a safe meeting place outside the home where everyone will head to while you await the arrival of the fire department. Do a head count at this location to ensure everyone is out if someone is missing let the firefighters know that they could be still inside the house.
Practice your escape plan, it is recommended that the entire family do a trial run at least twice every year. Do a regular fire drill and consider timing how long it takes everyone to get out quickly. If one of your escape routes includes a basement window, make sure family members can actually get up to the window and can fit through without difficulty or struggle. Try blocking some of the possible exits and practice again forcing individuals to use an alternate escape route, you may even want to make it even more challenging by turning all the lights out for a trial run in the dark. Make sure everyone knows that this is serious, even when doing a practice. It is not intended for fun and games!
It is important that everyone is capable of unlocking doors and windows which will be necessary for their escape. Any windows or doors with security bars will need to include a quick-release that each person knows how to use (and is capable of using in an emergency).
Let everyone know that if you live in an apartment building to always use the stairs, elevators are a definite NO during a fire. We trust that you will also have a proper rope ladder readily accessible if anyone may need to escape from the second level (or higher) of your home or apartment.
Make sure that children and young adults all know to test doors for heat before opening and to stay low at all times below the danger and threat of smoke inhalation. We know that no one wants to be trapped in a room, but if you find that is the case remember to keep all doors closed between you and the fire and to stuff the cracks around doors with towels, blankets or other items available to keep smoke out.
GET OUT QUICK – AND STAY OUT
We understand the difficulty in leaving items behind, an initial reaction may be to first rescue possessions or pets. Get to your meeting place and call the fire department (everyone should know how to call the fire department, but do not simply assume they do)
Do not re-enter the home once you have escaped. You have a greater chance of becoming trapped on re-entry and others may not know your whereabouts if you had been accounted for at the meeting place.
Many home fires occur while the family is asleep, we cannot stress often enough the importance of ensuring that your home has proper smoke alarms on every level and that they are tested monthly with batteries replaced one to two times annually. Do not remove batteries out or unhook a smoke alarm for any reason.
Losing a home to fire is tragic, no one ever wants to see that loss become even more severe with the loss of a life. We believe your insurance company should play an active role in loss prevention efforts around your home, that is why we visit our members regularly. Our Loss Prevention Representative tests smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, checks fire extinguisher levels and inspects the overall safety of the property for your family. Be sure to do your part, fire safety your responsibility!
Article Written by Darcy Johnson
Erie Mutual Insurance Manager – Sales, Marketing & Business Development
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