Fire Department

Headquarters Station - 816 E. Haley St. Midland, MI 48640  Phone:989-837-3410  Email:

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Home Escape Plans

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 Drills 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.

Plan Ahead

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.

Escape Routes

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 repaired.

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 following:

  • Impaired vision.

  • Dizziness and disorientation due to toxic gases and, in extreme cases, death.

  • In the confusion, a person can easily become lost or trapped in the home.

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 visible.

  • 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 fire department.

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 missing person.

Under no circumstances should anyone re-enter a burning building.

Plans for Children, the Elderly or Others Who May Need Assistance

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 smoke detectors.

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.