The kids are finally settled at their desks to complete their homework. You are looking forward to sitting down with a cup of tea after a long day. All of a sudden, the shrill noise of your smoke alarm blasts throughout your home, warning of a house fire. You turn around, and you can smell and taste the thick grey smoke within seconds. Your partner is screaming, Get Out – Get Out! Your House is on Fire!!!
What do you do?
You jump out of your chair, knocking your teacup off the table, smashing to the floor in a thousand pieces.
The fire is blazing, and there is no time to check on your family or even help them. All you can do is get out of your burning home to safety.
You rush out the sliding door to your deck, praying your family will make it outside safely. Your heart is pounding as you run down the stairs into your backyard. Desperately, you search for your partner and kids as your house goes up in flames.
You hear the wailing sirens as the Fire Trucks as they quickly approach. Panic and fear set in as you frantically search and scream for your family.
Where are they? How are they? Did they make it out safely? You so desperately need to find your family.
Not a situation anyone wants to face, but according to NFPA, in 2020, local fire departments responded to an estimated 1.4 million fires in the United States. These fires caused 3,500 civilian fire deaths and 15,200 reported civilian fire injuries. On average, a fire department responded to a fire somewhere in the US every 23 seconds in 2020. A home structure fire was reported every 89 seconds, a home fire death occurred every three hours and 24 minutes, and a home fire injury occurred every 46 minutes.
Will your Family make it out Safely when Facing a House Fire?
Step 1 – Identify a Family Meeting Place.
Your Family Meeting Place is a pre-identified location where you and your family will meet when evacuated from your home due to a house fire. Select a location close enough to your home, keeping your home in clear view. Keep in mind the fire trucks will likely be directly in front of your home. You need to ensure you stay out of their way to allow them to fight the fire.
Your next-door neighbour’s home on the right or left of your home or the apartment building to the right or left generally works well as your Family Meeting Place. Don’t have multiple Family Meeting Places as this makes it difficult to remember your Family Meeting Place when you are forced to evacuate.
With a Family Meeting Place, you will quickly know who has made it out safely and who has not. You won’t be wasting valuable time searching for loved ones. If a family member doesn’t show up, you can alert the fire department, and they may be able to help that person.
If it’s cold and wet, your neighbours may invite you in, but don’t go into a neighbour’s home until you have connected with family. It makes it very difficult to find you if you are not at your Family Meeting Place.
Step 2 – Grab & Go Kits
Grab & Go Kits are disaster kits for the short term that contain essential items you may need while evacuated. They include a change of clothes, shoes, medications and other things specific to your needs. If you evacuate in the middle of the night, you will be thankful for that change of clothes when standing out on the street corner in your pyjamas.
As you evacuate your home if anyone has the opportunity to safely grab your Grab & Go Kits, have them do that. If it’s not safe to grab your Grab and Go kits, just leave your house. Life safety always comes first!
Step 3 – Practice Evacuating from your Home
Practice DOES make perfect. I encourage you to practice evacuating from your home twice a year.
- Start by setting off the smoke alarms.
- Practice evacuating from the bedrooms, the basement and other locations in your home and reporting to your Family Meeting Place.
- Not only will you be strengthening the memory muscle of how to evacuate your home when facing a house fire, but you will also be testing your smoke alarms.
- Don’t stop there; check the expiry date on your fire extinguishers.
- Remind your family if they are going past the location your Grab & Go Kits are stored to grab them, but stress the fact in a real fire to only do so if safe to do.
For those of you who live in apartments, keep in mind that the elevators will not be working in a real fire, and you will need to use the stairs. Do you know where those stairs will take you? Sometimes is not always as straightforward as it seems.
Time to Take Action:
Having responded to countless house fires and apartment fires, I have seen first-hand the importance of having a Family Meeting Place. I see the panicked faces of parents frantically searching for their kids, not knowing if they have made it out safely, and the fear of kids who can’t find their parents as they watch their homes go up in flames. They don’t know if their family members are still in the burning house or apartment or have made it out to safety because they are running around trying to connect with each other as they never identified their Family Meeting Place.
Sit down today with your family today and identify your Family Meeting Place! Then go back to Step 3 and practice evacuating from your house. Practice does make Perfect!
Visit my website at www.survive-it.ca for info on preparing for disasters of all kinds.
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