A Closer Look: Fire escape plan not something to put off

Originally posted in the London Free Press

By Rob Parker, Special to Postmedia Network

What would you do if one of the rooms in your home suddenly filled with smoke while you were in it? Many people would not be able to answer that question because they haven’t taken the time to think about, let alone plan, what they would do should such an emergency occurred.

In our area during the winter months, people spend most of their time inside their homes. It should therefore come as no surprise the majority of fires take place during the winter months between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. when people are asleep, most injuries occur when fires are caused by cooking equipment, and most deaths occur in homes where smoke detectors haven’t been installed.

The first step to prevent fires and other emergencies in your home is to ensure you have a sufficient number of properly located smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and that they are working. Not only is it the law, it just makes sense.

You should also create an evacuation plan that should include the following:

  • A floor plan of your home, marking two ways out of every room — especially sleeping areas. Discuss escape routes with every member of your household.
  • An agreed-on meeting place outside your home where every member of the household will gather to wait for the fire department. This allows you to count heads and inform firefighters if any­one is inside the burning building.
  • Having a fire drill in your home at least twice a year. Appoint someone to be a monitor and have every­one participate. Get out quickly, but carefully. Make your exit drill realistic. Pretend that some exits are blocked by fire and practice alternative escape routes. Pretend the lights are out and some escape routes are filling with smoke.

Because most fire deaths occur overnight when people are asleep, rehearse your escape at night. Get down on your hands and knees with a flashlight while crawling to safety. Staying close to the floor increases your chances of escape because heavy smoke, which is pulled up by hot air, impairs breathing,   

Evacuation is the most common fire safety strategy.

Everyone must leave the home, including people with limited activity. No single evacuation technique is suitable for everyone: people requiring assistance differ in their needs, capabilities, endurance and tolerance levels. Before there is an emergency, you need to think about your abilities and limitations when it comes to evacuation.

Your evacuation strategy should take into account how many live in your home, whether it’s a house or apartment, whether help is close by and your degree of independence and mobility.

The evacuation plan should be developed in co-operation with your local fire department, your building manager (if there is one) and your family members.

Other tips:

If your home has a second storey, you need a special escape plan to get to the ground. Check to see that windows have not been painted shut. Although doors and windows should always be securely locked, you have to be able to open them in an emergency.

If you have a two-storey home, there should be a fire extinguisher on each floor. Remember to check your fire extinguishers at least once a year. To help you remember, make a habit of doing it when you set your clocks to daylight saving time. Replace a fire extinguisher that is 10 years old or older.

If your home has bedrooms in a basement, make sure there is either a step ladder or piece of furniture that can be used to assist a person to get out the window because, assuming the window is of regulation size, it’s often difficult for a person to exit if they can’t lift themselves up to the height of the window

Paper, paint, chemicals and other clutter can be a fire hazard. Make sure these are stored in a safe place. When you no longer need the hazardous materials, you must dispose of them at a community toxic waste centre. Never put hazardous materials in the garbage. Store your important documents in a safe place — for example, a fireproof box, or a safety deposit box.

Keep a list of emergency phone numbers (including 911, poison prevention line, doctors, relatives, neighbours and friends) close to the phone. Make sure your children are aware of the list.

For more information go to http://www.oafc.on.ca/home-­escape-plan, or contact your local fire department.

Rob Parker is a registered home inspector (RHI) with the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors, and an ASHI certified inspector (ACI) with the American Society of Home Inspectors . Rob can be reached at Thamespec Home Inspection Service (519) 857-7101, by email at thamespec@rogers.com or visit www.thamespec-inspections.com

Date : 2/19/2017