Watch the YouTube video at left to learn how to plan an escape route
before disaster strikes in your home.
It's a good idea to gather your family together and draw a home fire escape plan, called EDITH (Exit
In The Home) and practice the plan so each person in the home knows at least two ways out of each room.
It has been proven that practicing exit drills
reduces the chance of panic and injury during fires, and those trained and
informed have a much better chance of surviving a fire.
Unless a small fire can be easily controlled, fighting a fire should
be left to professional firefighters. Family members should concentrate
instead on escaping safely from the home.
When Most Fires Occur
Most residential fires occur between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. Deaths from
residential fires occur in greater numbers between midnight and 4 a.m.
when most people are asleep. More than half of those who die from
residential fires are children and senior citizens.
Planning ahead is the first step in escaping a fire in the home. By
installing smoke detectors in the home and making sure they are in good
working order, family members can be alerted to the presence of smoke or
fire before it's too late. Together, family members can work on and
memorize an escape plan to help lead them to safety in the event
of a fire in the home.
One very good step in planning a home fire escape plan is to
make a floor diagram of the house. Mark the regular and emergency escape
routes, as well as windows, doors, stairs and hallways. A good rule of
of thumb is to show two ways out of each room in the house.
If anything should change around the home, be sure to update the
diagram and inform family members of a change in the escape plan.
Each person in your household should know how to get safely outside
by at least two routes. Escape routes and how quickly one can escape
from a burning building can depend on the room or constraints in the
building; see below for specifics.
While people are sleeping, bedroom doors should be kept closed. It
takes fire 10-15 minutes to burn through a wooden door... that's 10 to
15 minutes during which a home's inhabitants can escape.
When working on a home escape plan, family members should visit each
bedroom and designate two escape routes from those rooms: the normal
exit and a second exit through a door or window in the room.
Family members should practice opening their windows to become
familiar with their operation. Jammed windows should be identified and
If a window is jammed
during a fire, it may be broken out with an
object and a blanket or towel placed over the frame to cover shards of
glass. However, it is much safer and easier to open a window than it is
to break the glass.
Some homes may have security bars on the windows. If a property owner feels they
need the additional security, "firesafe bars" should be installed or
retrofitted. Firesafe bars should have a single action quick release
device to allow people to exit a window quickly and safely. Contact the
City's Building Department at 989-837-3383 to find out about proper
installation of firesafe bars.
When you are trying to escape through a closed door, you should
first test it to make sure it is not hot:
Feel the door with the back of your hand; if it is hot, don't open it.
Turn and go to the second route of exit.
If the door is not hot, open it slowly, but be prepared to slam it
shut again if you see flames.
If you are able to go through the doorway, be sure to shut the door behind
you; this will help control the spread of fire and/or smoke.
Dangers of Smoke
Regardless of the cause of the fire, a home may become filled with
smoke. This dangerous situation can lead to the
Dizziness and disorientation
due to toxic gases and, in extreme cases, death.
In the confusion, a person can easily become lost or trapped in
Family members must constantly be reminded that their safety depends upon
quickly leaving the home.
Everyone in your household should understand the importance of
crawling low under smoke. Smoke and heat rise, so the best place to
find fresher, cooler air is near the floor. When a person is caught in a
building filled with smoke, they should drop on their hands and knees
and crawl to the nearest exit.
Practice what to do if you become trapped. Since doors hold back
smoke and firefighters are adept at rescue, the chances of survival are
excellent. However, there are some techniques to try to keep yourself
away from smoke:
Close doors between you and the smoke.
Stuff door cracks and cover vents with blankets, rugs or pillows
to keep smoke out.
If there's a phone, call in your exact location to 9-1-1 even if
the Midland Fire Department is on the scene.
Stay low near the door or window.
Signal out the window with a sheet, flashlight or something
Jumping from upper floors of a building should be avoided.
Parents can purchase fire ladders for the bedrooms or instruct
children to use an adjacent porch or garage roof to await rescue by the
Exit Safely From a Structure
When exiting a structure, do not use the elevator, as a power
failure may cause them to stop in between floors and/or trap its
inhabitants. If possible, use the fire escape or an enclosed fire
resistive stairwell to exit a building.
Establish a Safe Meeting Place
Your escape plan should include designating a special meeting place
a safe distance from
the house. It could be a mailbox, the neighbor's driveway or a large
tree in the yard. Whatever it is, it must be something stationary that won't be moved (such as a car). This is where everyone
must meet in case of a fire. It also prevents family members from
wandering around the neighborhood looking for one another or - even
worse - being tempted to re-enter the burning house for someone who is
thought to be trapped inside.
Once outside at the special meeting place, one person can be sent to
the neighbor's to call 9-1-1. Count all family members at the meeting
place; if anyone is missing, give the information to the fire
department immediately, and tell them the probable location of the
Under no circumstances should anyone re-enter a burning building.
Plans for Children, the Elderly or Others Who May
Special provisions may be required for infants, young children,
disabled or the elderly who may need additional help when escaping.
These provisions should be included in the home fire escape plan and
discussed with all family members.
Special Provisions for Children: When they're afraid,
children will commonly seek sheltered places such as a closet or under
the bed. Encourage them to follow the family's EDITH plan and meet at
the designated location.
Remind them to NEVER hide during a fire - they should always go
outside, if possible. Make
sure children can operate the windows, descend a ladder, or lower
themselves to the ground through a window. (Slide out on the stomach,
feet first. Hang on with both hands, and bend the knees when landing.) Lower
children to the ground before you exit from the window; they may
panic and not follow if an adult goes first.
Have children learn how to dial 9-1-1 and practice saying the family name and
your home's street address into the phone.
Practice Your Fire Escape Plan
Most importantly, practice your home fire escape plan
before an incident occurs.
A good way to practice the effectiveness of a home fire escape plan
is to position each family member in his or her bed, turn off all the
lights, and activate the smoke detector by depressing the test switch.
Each family member should help "awaken" the others by yelling the alert.
Family members should exit their rooms according to the escape plan, crawl low
under smoke, practice feeling doors for heat, and meet in the designated
safe spot outside the home. Practice drills at different times and under different situations,
i.e., at night, in the winter, or when a friend is staying over.
(This might encourage the friend to have his/her family create a plan
for their home.)
Not all "homes" are single residential structures; some include
apartments and other types of buildings. Some additional discussion may
be helpful when planning methods of escape for these types of structures.
Escape from Other Types of Structures
High-Rise Apartment Complexes: Most high-rise or multi-story apartment complexes post fire escape
plans for all residents to see and follow. However, these plans seldom
include escape routes for each apartment. Family members must develop
and practice an evacuation plan for their individual apartment.
Hotels Or Other Buildings:
When in a building that's foreign to you, be sure to look for these
important features - enclosed exit stairways, clearly-marked exits,
clean hallways and lobbies, automatic sprinklers, fire alarm systems and
As a family, explore the building so every exit is familiar,
including those from storage, laundry and recreation rooms. If the
hallways become smoke-filled as the result of a fire, memory can help
you find the exits.