Written By: John McLeish and Krystal Leonov, Student-at-Law
Plan your Fire Route
Did you know that 7 out of 10 fires in Canada occur at home? Every year firefighters battle more than 50,000 residential fires. Once a fire starts, it can spread swiftly therefore, it is imperative that you and your family have a step-by-step escape plan in case of an emergency.
The most common causes of home fires include:
- Cooking (usually when someone leaves the stove unattended)
- Careless smoking
- Kids playing with fire
- Electrical equipment
- Leaving candles burning
- Fireplaces that need cleaning
- Highly flammable products
- Improper dryer ventilation
The following steps will help you prepare your fire escape plan and ensure your family is better equipped to survive a fire in your home:
Plan to Escape
Draw a floor plan of your home showing all possible exits from each room, especially bedrooms. When a fire strikes, a planned step-by-step escape route can reduce panic and confusion. You can print out a fire escape template here.
Make sure to practice your escape plan twice a year as it needs to be realistic for the people in your household. Decide in advance who will assist the very young, the elderly or people with disabilities. A few minutes of planning will save valuable seconds in a real emergency. Below is an example of a fire escape plan:
Be Prepared – Make Alternate Routes
Make sure everyone in the household can unlock doors and windows quickly, even in the dark. Windows with security bars need to be equipped with quick-release devices and everyone should know how to use them.
Test doors before opening them. While kneeling or crouching at the door, reach up as high as you can and touch the door with the back of your hand. If the door is hot use another escape route as opening a door could fuel the fire with oxygen and pull flames into the room. If you live in a two storey house and you need to exit through a window, be sure there is a safe way to reach the ground. This is why it is so important to plan and practice your route beforehand.
Keep an Escape Ladder Handy
If you live in a home of two or more storeys, make sure to plan an escape route for each level. Purchase a collapsible fire escape ladder and show your family how to use it. Ladders can come in two storey and three storey options.
What if You Are Trapped?
Close doors between you and the fire. Use wet blankets or towels to cover vents and cracks between floors and doors. Wait at a window and signal for help using a flashlight, your phone or a bright coloured towel.
Get Out fast…
In case of a fire, do not stop for anything. Crawl low under the smoke as deadly gasses and heat rises while the cleaner air is near the floor. Go directly to your meeting place and call the fire department from your cell phone or a neighbor’s phone.
…And Stay Out
Once you are out of the home, do not go back in for any reason. If people are trapped, firefighters have the best chance of rescuing them. They have the training, the experience and protective equipment needed to endure the high temperatures and smoke.
Play It Safe
More than half of fatal home fires happen at night while people are asleep. Smoke alarms are set off when a fire starts, alerting people before they are trapped. With smoke alarms, your risk of dying in a home fire is cut nearly in half. Install smoke alarms outside every sleeping area and on every level of your home, including the basement.
Help Avoid a Fire Tragedy This Winter
In Canada, house fires are most likely to occur between December and March because people are using their heat sources more often and vents can become blocked with snow and debris, causing smoke build up. As the holiday season is quickly approaching, ensure you have the following precautions in place:
- Give your chimney a good cleaning
- Give heaters space, never placing them too close to anything that can be flammable
- Do not leave candles unattended
- Keep your Christmas tree away from any ignition source such as a fireplace or candles
- Discard any Christmas lights that are frayed or damaged
If you or someone you love has suffered a serious injury as the result of a fire, contact one of the critical injury lawyers at McLeish Orlando LLP for a free consultation.