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How to be ready for a home fire: Plan and practice

Did you know that today's homes burn faster than ever? Newer homes tend to be built with unprotected, lightweight wood construction and are frequently designed with lots of open spaces and high ceilings - ideal conditions for fire to grow and spread quickly. Also, modern home furnishings are often made with synthetic fibers that generate toxic smoke and gases when they burn, making it hard to see and breathe within moments.

Whether you live in an older or a newer home, however, you may have as little as two minutes to escape safely from the moment your smoke alarm sounds. Getting out of your home as soon as possible is vital to safety.

While many families may have spent some time thinking about an escape plan, far fewer actually practice it. Going through a fire safety drill means that everyone will know what to do when seconds count.

How can you make your family ready in the event of a home fire? Here are important steps to follow.

1. Check smoke alarms.

Having enough working smoke alarms in your home is critical to increased safety. Do you have at least one working smoke alarm on every level of your home? Is there one located in every bedroom and near all sleeping areas? Do you test your alarms monthly to make sure they're working? Are they interconnected, so that when one smoke alarms sounds, they all do?

2. Make a map.

Involve everyone in your household in the process of drawing a map of your home. Together, walk through each room as you work on the map, marking two exits from each room (typically a door and a window), and a path from each room's exit to the outside.

Make sure exits remain unblocked by furniture, are clear of clutter and in good working order (i.e., windows open and close easily).

To make a map, you can download and use the grid available at under "Make your plan."

3. Pick a meeting place.

Decide on a nearby tree, light pole or neighbor's home where everyone will meet after exiting. Make sure the meeting place is far enough away from your home to be out of danger from a fire.

4. Review how to call 911 or your community's emergency number.

Make sure everyone knows how to report the fire once they're safely outside using a mobile phone or by going to a trusted neighbor's home.

5. Practice.

Have everyone go into their rooms as if it's nighttime, sound the alarm, and then practice getting out quickly. Practice more than once to improve exit times and to make sure everyone understands exactly what to do in the event of a fire. Practice your plan at least twice a year so it's fresh in everyone's minds.

If there are older people living in your home, or anyone with special needs, make sure you have a plan in place to help them get out. Involve everyone in practicing your plan to be sure it works for everybody.

"People tend to underestimate their risk to fire, particularly at home. That over-confidence lends itself to a complacency toward home escape planning and practice," said Lorraine Carli, vice president of outreach and advocacy at the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). "But in a fire situation, we've seen time and again that advance planning can make a potentially life-saving difference."

Visit and click "Make your plan" to help make sure your family is ready.

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