Home Emergency Escape Plan 

What you need before an emergency happens

  • For a home or apartment, you should have at the very least, one smoke detector on each floor. 
  • Every home and apartment should have an escape plan. 
  • This is a plan that is drawn up, reviewed and actually practiced by each member of a given household. 
  • Every room should have two routes to safety; first would be a door, second would either be a door in an opposing direction or a window. 
  • If you live in a high rise building, never use the elevator; always use the stairs. 
  • There should be an agreed upon area for all members to meet to be sure that all people are out safely. 
  • If a member is missing, advise a Public Safety Officer immediately. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO RE-ENTER A BURNING HOUSE! 
  • As you leave the building, try to shut doors and windows behind you to hinder the advance of flames. 
  • If you must exit through smoke, stay low to the floor. You should crawl on your hands and knees.
Your ability to get out depends on advance warning from smoke alarms and advance planning  
  • Pull together everyone in your household and make a plan. Walk through your home and inspect all possible exits and escape routes.  Households with children should consider drawing a floor plan of your home, marking two ways out of each room, including windows and doors. Also, mark the location of each smoke alarm. For easy planning, download NFPA's escape planning grid. This is a great way to get children involved in fire safety in a non-threatening way.
  • Install smoke alarms in every sleeping room, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm Code® requires interconnected smoke alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.
  • Everyone in the household must understand the escape plan. When you walk through your plan, check to make sure the escape routes are clear and doors and windows can be opened easily.
  • Choose an outside meeting place (i.e. neighbor's house, a light post, mailbox, or stop sign) a safe distance in front of your home where everyone can meet after they've escaped. Make sure to mark the location of the meeting place on your escape plan.
  • Go outside to see if your street number is clearly visible from the road. If not, paint it on the curb or install house numbers to ensure that responding emergency personnel can find your home.
  • Have everyone memorize the emergency phone number of the fire department. That way any member of the household can call from a neighbor's home or a cellular phone once safely outside.
  • If there are infants, older adults, or family members with mobility limitations, make sure that someone is assigned to assist them in the fire drill and in the event of an emergency. Assign a backup person too, in case the designee is not home during the emergency.
  • If windows or doors in your home have security bars, make sure that the bars have emergency release devices inside so that they can be opened immediately in an emergency. Emergency release devices won't compromise your security - but they will increase your chances of safely escaping a home fire.
  • Tell guests or visitors to your home about your family's fire escape plan. When staying overnight at other people's homes, ask about their escape plan. If they don't have a plan in place, offer to help them make one. This is especially important when children are permitted to attend "sleepovers" at friends' homes. See NFPA's "Sleepover fire safety for kids" fact sheet.
  • Be fully prepared for a real fire: when a smoke alarm sounds, get out immediately. Residents of high-rise and apartment buildings may be safer "defending in place."
  • Once you're out, stay out! Under no circumstances should you ever go back into a burning building. If someone is missing, inform the fire department dispatcher when you call. Firefighters have the skills and equipment to perform rescues.

Putting your plan to the test

  • Practice your home fire escape plan twice a year, making the drill as realistic as possible.
  • Make arrangements in your plan for anyone in your home who has a disability.
  • Allow children to master fire escape planning and practice before holding a fire drill at night when they are sleeping. The objective is to practice, not to frighten, so telling children there will be a drill before they go to bed can be as effective as a surprise drill.
  • It's important to determine during the drill whether children and others can readily waken to the sound of the smoke alarm. If they fail to awaken, make sure that someone is assigned to wake them up as part of the drill and in a real emergency situation.
  • If your home has two floors, every family member (including children) must be able to escape from the second floor rooms. Escape ladders can be placed in or near windows to provide an additional escape route. Review the manufacturer's instructions carefully so you'll be able to use a safety ladder in an emergency. Practice setting up the ladder from a first floor window to make sure you can do it correctly and quickly. Children should only practice with a grown-up, and only from a first-story window. Store the ladder near the window, in an easily accessible location. You don't want to have to search for it during a fire.
  • Always choose the escape route that is safest – the one with the least amount of smoke and heat – but be prepared to escape under toxic smoke if necessary. When you do your fire drill, everyone in the family should practice getting low and going under the smoke to your exit.
  • Closing doors on your way out slows the spread of fire, giving you more time to safely escape.
  • In some cases, smoke or fire may prevent you from exiting your home or apartment building. To prepare for an emergency like this, practice "sealing yourself in for safety" as part of your home fire escape plan. Close all doors between you and the fire. Use duct tape or towels to seal the door cracks and cover air vents to keep smoke from coming in. If possible, open your windows at the top and bottom so fresh air can get in. Call the fire department to report your exact location. Wave a flashlight or light-colored cloth at the window to let the fire department know where you are located. © National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 2014

Clear your escape routes

Clear all escape routesItems that block doors and windows in your home could keep you from escaping in the event of a home fire. And that could mean the difference between life and death. So unblock your exits today!

Key to your family’s safety is planning and practicing a home fire escape plan twice a year. Start by identifying two escape routes out of each room, if possible, then make sure that each of those escape routes can be used safely by everyone.

Sleepover Safety For Kids

A checklist to help parents and caregivers consider hazards and make decisions about slumber parties and sleepovers.

"Before you permit your child to sleep over with a friend, talk to the child's parents," says Judy Comoletti, NFPA´s Division Manager for Public Education. "Depending on what you learn, it can either uncover serious fire dangers or give you peace of mind during your child's sleepover."

Before you say "yes"...

  • How well do you know the home?
  • Is the home clean?
  • Does it appear to be structurally sound?
  • Is the home in a safe area?
  • If the home has security bars on doors and windows, do you know for certain that the bars have quick release devices inside, so your child could get out in an emergency?
  • Is your child comfortable in the home and with all the occupants?
  • Are you comfortable leaving your child in the home overnight?

How well do you know the parent(s)?

  • Are they mature, responsible and conscientious?
  • Will they supervise the children throughout the stay?
  • Are they cautious with smoking materials, matches and lighters, and candles?

Ask the parents

  • Are there working smoke alarms on every level, inside and outside each sleeping area?
  • Are the alarms interconnected?
  • Do they have a well-rehearsed fire escape plan that includes two ways out and a meeting place outside?
  • Where will your child be sleeping?
  • Is there a smoke alarm in the room?
  • Are there two escape routes from the room?
  • Will the parents walk through their escape plan with your child?
  • Do the parents prohibit bedroom candle use by children?

Emergency Evacuation Planning Guide For People with Disabilities
Family Escape Plan Video 
NFPA How to Make a Home Fire Escape Plan (pdf)
Clear Your Escape Routes   (en español)

back to top