Why you need a fire escape plan
The statistics are grim: About 24,000 house fires occur each year in Canada that result in an average of 377 deaths and 3,048 injuries annually.
According to the City of Toronto, seven out of 10 fires in this country occur at home. Even more frightening is children are considered to be the most at-risk group for injury or death.
Consider these facts:
- In Canada, 1 out of 100 preventable residential fires is fatal.
- The No. 1 ignition source in all preventable house fires is cooking equipment that ignites clothing, oil, or flammable liquids.
- In fatal house fires, the No. 1 ignition source is smoking materials, such as cigarettes.
- Fires are most likely to start in the kitchen, bedrooms, and living room.
- In fatal fires, more than one-third of the homes didn’t have a working smoke detector.
- More than half of house fires occur at night while people are asleep.
The good news is all municipal fire departments, educators, and the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs – which represents 411 fire departments in the province – are great resources for fire safety tips and how to develop your own fire evacuation plan.
This plan is a detailed document that covers all aspects of fire safety for a specific building or property. It is the most important action you can take to protect your life and the lives of loved ones. That’s because when a fire occurs, there is no time to waste. If you don’t have such a plan, now is the time to develop one.
RELATED: Download your own fire safety plan template here courtesy of the Windsor and Ottawa fire departments.
Fire officials recommend practicing your escape plan at least twice a year. It helps prevent panic in the event of a real fire. Appoint someone to be a monitor and have everyone participate. A fire drill is not a race. Get out quickly, but carefully. Make your exit drill realistic. Pretend that some exits are blocked by fire.
Windsor Fire and Rescue Services has this advice on how to develop your own fire escape plan:
- Install smoke detectors on each floor of your home and test them regularly.
- Draw a floor plan of your home showing all possible exits from each room.
- Where possible, plan the main exit route and an alternate exit route from each room.
- Make certain that everyone understands that if they hear the smoke detector, or hear someone shouting “fire” they should immediately evacuate.
- Decide on a meeting place. Someone should be sent to phone call 911
- Meet firefighters when they arrive, so they know you are safe and there is no one trapped in the building.
- Make certain that everyone in your home knows not to re-enter a burning building or stop to rescue possessions.
- Before opening any door on the way out, feel it. If the door is hot – do not open it! Use the alternate exit. If windows in upper-story rooms can’t serve as alternate exits, open the window and shout for help.
- If you are trapped, close all doors between you and the fire. Stuff the cracks around the doors with towels or blankets to keep out smoke. Wait at a window and signal for help with a light-coloured cloth or flashlight.
- Make sure everyone in the household can unlock all doors and windows quickly, even in the dark. Windows or doors with security bars need to be equipped with quick-release devices and everyone should know how to use them.
- In a smoke-filled area, the cooler air is down low. Crawl low under smoke since it contains deadly gases and heat rises. Practice your escape plan by crawling on your hands and knees.
- If you live in an apartment building, develop your escape plan taking into account fire escape procedures provided by building management. Take the stairs, not elevators.
- If there is anyone in your home not able to evacuate without assistance, assign someone to help them.
- Make sure your babysitter understands your fire escape plan.
RELATED READING: Emergency Planning 101: Have a plan