The time to prepare for an emergency is well in advance of a fire or weather emergency. Every member of the family needs to know alarm procedures, which include the fire evacuation route from every room in the house. A well-prepared family holds a fire drill several times a year so every member of the family knows where to go to be safe in an emergency.
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Every family needs to prepare a written emergency plan. Within this plan, there should be a diagram of the house that indicates where every fire exit is in each room. Each member of the family, including young children, should know where those fire exits are and how to open the appropriate windows or doors. If the family plans to use an emergency ladder of any sort, family members should know where it is and how to use it safely. As part of the written plan, identify the location of each fire extinguisher and smoke detector. A designated meeting location outside of the house should also be a part of the family's written plan.
It's vitally important that safety equipment be clean and operational. As part of each family's fire evacuation review, each piece of fire equipment should undergo a thorough test. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors must have batteries replaced before the batteries go bad. Check the expiration date on fire extinguishers. Replace or refill extinguishers that are empty, have had a portion of their contents used or are out of date. Take a fire extinguisher outside and let family members learn how to use one.
Each family's evacuation plan should undergo testing on a regular basis. It's important to perform the fire drill at different times of the day so that family members understand how to use different exits. Practice exiting the home with emergency ladders, which often are emergency bedroom exits. Each family member must know not to open doors that are hot to the touch. After the fire drill, each family member should help evaluate how successful the fire drill was. If possible, time how long it takes for all family members to gather at the safe place outside the home. It may take several drills before everyone learns how to leave the house quickly and safely. If there are obvious problems with any exit from the home, the fire evacuation plan may need additional modification.
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