How to Create a Safe Escape Plan

1. Draw a Floor Plan of Your House 

As a family, look at exit routes from each room. Every room should have two possible exits, usually a door and a window. Sketch the shortest, safest way outside from any place in the home. For second floor windows, consider trees, fences, carports, garages or anything that could help someone exit, or get in their way. A fire-resistant escape ladder may be a good investment for a second floor window. 

If you live in an apartment building, there may be an exit plan in the corridor that shows how to get out of the building. Still, you need to a plan for your own apartment. In some cases, your safest exit may not be down the building corridor; it may be out a window or down the fire escape. Know which exit is best for you. 

2. Choose a Safe Meeting Place

Choose a safe place, outside, a short but safe distance from your house. Everyone in the family should go immediately to this place immediately. Good choices include a neighbor’s mailbox, a special tree, or a street sign - anything that does not move and is easy to recognize. 

3. Walk Through the Plan

You don’t want any surprises. Make sure all exits are easy to open and easy to access. If you have security bars make sure yours are the quick-release, fire-safe type. Nothing should be blocking a fire exit, including furniture or decorations. 

Make whatever adjustments are necessary to your planned routes. That may mean redrawing your plan, making repairs to your house, or both. 


Special Considerations 

If anyone very young, elderly, or disabled lives with you, make special arrangements in your fire escape plan. 


  • One parent should be responsible for getting a small child. 
  • It's important to determine if children and others are easily woken by the sound of the smoke alarm. If they do not wake up, be sure that someone is responsible to wake them up as part of your safe escape plan.
  • An elderly or disabled person should have a telephone in his or her room. Make sure they can unlock all doors and windows. 
  • A sign in the bedroom window of anyone who cannot exit alone will alert the fire department. 
  • People with mobility problems should sleep on the ground floor if possible. Make necessary adjustments (like emergency ramps, wider doorways for wheelchairs and walkers, fire resistant blankets or sprinkler systems) to help an emergency escape. 

Practice the Plan 

To make your plan work well, you need to practice it regularly. Practice with the entire family at least twice a year. Practice during the night and day and in different weather conditions. Different conditions may cause adjustments to your plan. 


  • Practice when everyone is home. 
  • Block off selected exits in advance with signs that say “smoke” or “flames”. People will have to use other exits. 
  • Begin the practice by pressing the test button on the smoke alarm. 
  • Time the practice from the time the smoke alarm sounds until everyone has gathered outside at the safe meeting place. Practice until the plan runs smoothly and only takes 3 to 5 minutes. 


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