Home Fire Drills

It's essential that every household have a plan for escaping a fire and practice it by holding fire drills at least twice a year. Many people make poor decisions when fire breaks out. They may be affected by smoke, disoriented by being awakened abruptly and frightened. The more you practice your escape plan, the more likely you and your family are to make proper decisions and escape safely.

Draw a floor plan of your home

Use a large sheet of paper or a grid sheet to draw a floor plan of your home. Be thorough.  Include all windows, doors, outdoor features and possible obstacles in your drawing. Indicate primary and alternate escape routes from each room. Know at least two ways out of each room and show them on your floor plan. Fire is unpredictable. It can block any exit path.

In a two-story home, plan safe escape routes through second-story windows. Can you climb out onto a roof or balcony? If not, purchase a non-combustible escape ladder that is tested and labeled by an independent testing laboratory.

Post your floor plan with the fire department's emergency number on a bulletin board near your phone where babysitters and visitors can see them. Revise your plan as circumstances change in your household. Make sure everyone including young children, older adults and people with disabilities are included.

Learn your escape routes and keep them clear

Assess each escape route realistically to be sure it can be used in an emergency. Walk through the primary and alternative escape routes, making sure that all exits are accessible to all members of your household. Can everyone open all windows? Are stairs and hallways clutter free?  Be sure that balconies, roofs and escape ladders included in your plan can support the weight of the heaviest member of the household.

Be sure that windows in your home are not painted shut or blocked and do not have a screwed on screen or storm window that can't be opened from the inside. Windows or doors protected by security bars should have quick release mechanisms that everyone in the family can operate. Locked and barred doors should open easily from the inside and every member of your household should be able to open them.

Teach your children what to do in a fire

Have each child in your household memorize the fire department's phone number and have them practice giving your address. Make sure they understand that they should escape first and know which neighbors to go to in the event of a fire emergency.  Teach your children, even very young children, that they must escape from a fire and never hide in places they might think are safe, such as a closet, bedroom, or under a bed.

Don't wait. Parents should not expect children to stay in their rooms until someone comes to help. In a fire, parents may be blocked from their children's bedrooms by smoke or flame. Each child should know how to escape a fire and be taught to do so as soon as her or she smells smoke or hears the sound of a smoke alarm. 

Hold an exit drill every six months

A recent survey revealed that while many people have home escape plans, only one in four have plans they have practiced. Practice your escape plan at least twice a year. Try an unannounced drill to make the experience as realistic as possible. Appoint a monitor to begin the drill by pushing the test button on a smoke alarm and yelling, "Fire drill, everybody out!"

  • Some studies have shown that some children may not awaken to the sound of the smoke alarm. Know what your child will do before a fire occurs. For more information on this issue, smoke alarms and escape planning visit www.nfpa.org/factsheets.
  • Make sure everyone in your home knows the sound of your smoke alarm.
  • In a real fire, you must be prepared to move quickly, carefully and calmly. Don't let your exit drill become a race, make sure everyone knows exactly what to do. Don't run.
  • Vary your drills be pretending some escape routes are blocked.
  • Since the majority of fatal home fires start when people are asleep, practice your escape plan by having each member of your household wait in his or her sleeping area for the monitor to sound the alarm.
  • Start by coaching your children, but remember that your goal is to teach them to escape without your help.