A young family is sound asleep in a house in Brisbane. Outside, cold winter air works at the little cracks, trying to burrow in where sleepers lay. Daniel leaves his partner Teneale in bed to check on their daughter Charlotte. She is three years old and has woken, restless. He loves watching her sleep, but tonight the sound of her breathing is making his eyelids heavy. Cuddling up to Charlotte, he is quickly asleep.
When he wakes, the fire alarm is going off.
Parents have nightmares about a situation like this. Waking in the middle of the night to fire alarms sounding, and the realisation that this time, that smell really is smoke. It’s heartbreaking when we hear about families who don’t have fire alarms installed. But it’s also easy to think that your fire alarm is the only step you need to take for fire safety.
Let us be clear: Seeking smoke alarm installation is so important but just having a fire alarm isn’t enough.
All families should have a Fire Escape Plan in place. Something so, if the worst happens, you aren’t left panicking and unsure of what to do.
What Is A Fire Escape Plan?
A Fire Escape Plan is exactly what it sounds like. A simple plan, easily prepared and discussed with your family, that outlines how you’ll get out of your house in the case of a fire.
Your plan should look at the safest place to meet if there’s a fire (like the footpath outside), the different ways you can exit the house, and the route you’ll take in case of fire-related obstacles.
Daniel jumped up to see what was happening. In the lounge room, a wave of hot air swept over him. Flames were licking up the walls, and quickly spreading.
They had to get out.
Why Do You Need A Fire Escape Plan?
During periods of high stress, our bodies are on alert and experiencing what is often known as the ‘fight or flight’ response. This has, in an evolutionary sense, served us pretty well. But, when it comes to a fire situation, ‘fight or flight’ means that people often make impulsive decisions that do not lead to the best outcomes.
In addition to this, people in a fire situation are usually faced with a very narrow time frame to get themselves to safety, and due to smoke inhalation, they are often confused as well as fearful.
This is what makes a Fire Escape Plan so worthwhile. It allows you to take the impulsive, fear-driven decision making out of the equation. Instead, you can protect yourself and your family by logically laying out a plan that gets everyone out, fast.
Daniel grabs Charlotte and yells for Teneale, but she isn’t responding. He runs into their bedroom and finds she’s still asleep. She hasn’t heard the alarm.
He shakes her awake: ““The lounge room is on fire, we have to get out.”
Making Your Fire Escape Plan
Creating your Fire Escape Plan is simple. Sit down with your family or your partner and have a frank discussion about what would happen if your house was on fire.
Then, have a look at the layout of your home, paying particular care to exits you use, and anything that may be a potential exit, like a window. A fire can start in any room of your house, so all of the main rooms should have two exits on your plan: a primary exit, and a secondary one.
Now that you’ve had a think about your house, and your plan, get it on paper. You can draw out a very simple layout of your home, and then make a visual note of the primary and secondary exits. When this is done, display your plan it in a prominent place within your home, somewhere your family will see it every day, like on the fridge or behind the toilet door.
A burning room is between them and the front door. They run for the back. As they arrive Teneale grabs Daniel: ““The back door is deadlocked! The keys are in the lounge room!”
Their neighbors have heard the alarms and rung 000. But how will they get out?
Practicing Your Fire Escape Plan
You know what they say, practice makes perfect, and this is definitely true for your Fire Escape Plan.
It is a great idea to see your Fire Escape Plan visually everyday, but it is even better to live the moment in a calmer environment. Everyone in your family can be involved in this, even small children. Although it is important to impart on your little ones how necessary it is that they follow the plan, for very young children practicing your Fire Escape Plan could be something of a twice-yearly game.
As the noise of the alarms blares around him, and smoke and heat threaten to overcome them, Daniel realises that he will have to break the window so they can get out. He passes Charlotte to Teneale, then picks up one of her toy bikes and throws it at the glass. It smashes. They carefully make their way out of the window, and away from the fire.
Things To Remember About Your Fire Escape Plan
There are a couple of things to remember when writing your Fire Escape Plan.
First, you should always make clear what the plan is for very young, very elderly, or disabled members of your household. If it isn’t possible for them to get out of the house by themselves, someone will need to assist them in getting to safety.
At the same time as practicing your Fire Escape Plan, make sure to maintain all of your exits, ensuring that the windows and doors can be easily opened. Work to make your primary exits the most simple to access for people of all ages and fitness types. Not everyone will be able to climb out of a window, and you should discuss this with your family when writing the plan.
Remember, you should never under any circumstances go back into a burning building you have exited. Fire damages the building’s integrity, and going back for anything puts your life at risk.
Daniel, Teneale and little Charlotte all made it safely out of the house. They were lucky to do so, especially as they didn’t have a fire escape plan. Unfortunately, large areas of their three bedroom home were destroyed, along with many of their precious memories.
Due to the damage, nobody is sure exactly how the fire started. A faulty powerpoint, or overheating computer were the most likely cause of this terrifying experience.
Fires are a destructive force that can happen to anyone, including you. Do you have your plan ready?
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