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Making an emergency fire action plan for your household

Smoke Alarm And Flames

Every year, there are more than 27,000 fires in people’s homes in the UK that are attended by the emergency services. A fire in the home can destroy a property, the building itself and is a risk to life. This is why it’s essential that as well as making sure that everyone in your household understands the importance of fire safety, you all also know what to do if a fire does break out.

In this article, we look at family emergency fire action plans and how you can make sure that your own household has a plan in place to help keep everyone safe in the event of a fire.

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Why do you need an emergency fire action plan?

Having an action plan in place that everyone in the household knows and understands can save lives in an emergency.

If there is a fire in the home, it’s often a smoky, noisy and very frightening atmosphere, which can be very confusing and disorientating and it’s very common for people to panic. If there is a home fire escape plan in place that everyone knows and has practiced several times, it can make a big difference to getting the whole household out of the property as quickly and safely as possible.

Hopefully, a home fire escape plan will never be needed, but it’s important to be prepared, just in case.

What should be included in a fire escape plan?

The details of your own household’s fire escape plan will depend on a few different things, including:

  • The type of property you’re living in e.g. house, apartment, bungalow etc.
  • The layout of your home, including shut off point locations, like gas and electric mains.
  • Who lives in the property and whether some members of the household will need assistance getting out e.g. babies or young children, elderly people or those with a disability etc.
  • If there are pets in the home.
  • Various escape options and routes depending on where in the home the fire is.
  • Where it is safe for everyone to meet up once outside the home.

How to make a home fire escape plan

It’s important to have at least two escape plan options, just in case one route out of your property is blocked. We recommend drawing up an escape plan that shows all the rooms in your home and where the doors and windows are. This escape plan should show:

  • Two different escape routes out of the home, usually this might be a front door and a back door, or may include a large window as one option.
  • Where any keys to the doors and windows are always kept.
  • Where you should meet up, once outside.
  • What to do if you can’t get out of the property (more on this later).
Evacuation Plan On Clipboard

Other considerations for an emergency fire action plan

It’s important to consider things that might help or hinder you when trying to get out of the home if there is a fire. These could include:

  • Ensure that fire alarms should be tested regularly to ensure that at the first sign of a potential fire, you are alerted and have more time to either deal with the fire or escape.
  • Making sure that both of your exit routes are kept clear from clutter at all times.
  • Having a torch handy in several rooms of the home.
  • If any members of your household or regular visitors are very young, old, have a disability or are otherwise vulnerable or not very mobile, make sure you factor this in.
  • Think about any pets you have and how they can be safely evacuated from the home in the event of a fire (more on this later).
  • Talking to everyone in the household about getting down low in smoky rooms.
  • If you’re in an apartment building, make sure everyone in the household knows how to safely exit the building once you have left your apartment (e.g. don’t try to use a lift if there is a fire)
  • Know where your gas and electricity supply shut offs are located to inform the fire services upon arrival.

What to do if you can’t use your fire escape plan routes

If you are unable to get out of your home when there’s a fire, because your escape routes are blocked, you can try to get out through a window if you are on the ground floor.

If the window can’t be opened, you can use a heavy object to break it at one of the bottom corners. Cover sharp edges with bedding, clothing, towels or blankets before going through a broken window.

If you are trapped upstairs or are otherwise unable to get out, find a ‘safe room’ where you and others in your household can wait for rescue. A safe room needs to:

  • Be as far away from the fire as is possible
  • Have a window that opens
  • Contain a phone, if possible, so that the emergency services can be contacted to tell them where you are
  • Contain soft furnishings, clothes, or towels that can be used to seal the gap around the internal door

Once in the safe room, open the window to allow fresh air in and call the emergency services immediately. 

Fire safety plan example

As your specific plan will depend somewhat on the layout of your home, drawing out the rooms, corridors, doors, and windows is a good way to start planning escape routes. This drawing will also help you explain the plan to other members of your household, as it’s often easier to understand with that visual assistance.

If your home is on two or more levels, you’ll need to draw each floor out separately. If you have children, getting them involved in the drawing can help them better remember what is on it. 

Fire Escape Diagram

Practice your plan regularly with all household members

Just like fire drills at school or in the workplace, it’s a good idea to practice your fire escape plan regularly with everyone in your household too. Practicing at different times of the day and evening and at different times of the year, can help to show if there are any flaws in your plan as well as helping everyone remember what they need to do.

What about pets if you have a fire in your home?

Pets are members of the family too and it’s only natural to be very concerned about what might happen to them if there is a fire in the home.

It’s very important that if there is a fire, you don’t risk your own safety and get the human members of your household out of the property as quickly as possible. Do not go back into your home to look for pets in the event of a fire.

However, there are some things that you can do to prepare so that if there is a fire at home, your pets have the best chance of getting out safely too. These include:

  • Making sure your dog(s) are wearing a collar at all times, with a tag containing contact details. If they get separated from you during a home fire, this gives the best chance of being reunited quickly and also means that if your dog is close by when you’re getting out of the building, you can grab them as you go and keep a firm hold on them once outdoors.
  • Keep an emergency ‘Go Pack’ with essential pet supplies outside of your home, so that if you have to leave your property in an emergency, you will have what you need for them. Many people leave their pet’s Go Pack in their car, if they have one, or at the home of a nearby family friend or relative. This may contain food, travel bowls, a lead, and other essentials.
  • If you have to leave the home without your pets, leave your escape route open behind you (if safe to do so) so that they can find their own way out. 
Lighting A Candle With Match

Preventing fires at home – nightly checks you can do

If you’re worried about the idea of a fire starting in your home while everyone is asleep, some quick checks that you can do every evening before going to bed might help to put your mind at rest. You can:

  • Check that cookers/ovens and your hob is turned off.
  • Unplug electrical devices and appliances that don’t need to be on overnight.
  • Don’t charge battery operated devices overnight e.g. phones, tablets, vapes, e-scooters, cordless vacuums etc.
  • Close internal doors, as this will help prevent a fire spreading.
  • Turn off any heaters and use a fireguard if you have an open fire.
  • Check that your emergency exit routes are all clear.
  • Check that your door and window keys are where they should be if you need to access them during the night.
  • Check that any candles that have been used are properly extinguished and any cigarettes are fully put out.
  • Keep your mobile phone close by, in the event that you need to contact the emergency services.