It is easy to think, “It won’t happen to me.”
But accidents happen and emergencies arise — and when they do, being prepared could mean the difference between life and death.
The Township of Langley Fire Department is encouraging residents to plan and practice their escape routes, so everyone knows what to do if a fire or other emergency situation occurs in their home.
“If a fire starts in your home, you may only have a few minutes to get out, once the smoke alarm sounds,” said Krista Barton, Township public fire and life safety educator.
“Everyone needs to know what to do and where to go if there is a fire.
“Taking just a few moments every few months to review your emergency escape route can save your family’s lives.”
The fire department urges residents to take a look around their home and find at least two ways out of every room, if possible, and ensure all doors and windows that lead outside open easily.
Creating a map of the home and its exits will help, and escape ladders, which are available at hardware stores, may be valuable for homes that have more than one level.
“You hope you never have to use it, but it is there if you need it,” said Barton.
Families should establish a meeting place a safe distance away from the home, such as a neighbour’s house, a big tree, or the end of the driveway, so that everyone can be accounted for.
“We lose lives when people can’t find each other,” Barton said. “They go back in looking for somebody who may have already gotten out.”
The most important thing, she added, is to practice the escape routes at least twice a year, so that everyone in the home is comfortable with the procedure and it stays fresh in their minds. The home escape plans should be practiced at night as well as during the day.
Even very young children need to be involved, said Barton. “You are never too young to start the process,” she said, noting that “kids look to their parents for assistance, but what if you aren’t able to get to them? They need to know how to escape on their own in case you can’t help them.”
Practising will help children remember and learn, Barton said, and the experience will stay with them, so they are less frightened if a real emergency strikes.
“Walk through it with them and reassure them,” she said. “Give them responsibilities and challenge them with activities, such as drawing a map of the home or picking the meeting place. They will feel better because they are helping make sure everyone is safe.”
The Township of Langley offers the following tips for home escape planning:
• To make a home escape plan, draw a map of your home showing all doors and windows. Discuss the plan with everyone in your home.
• Practise different ways out.
• Close doors behind you as you leave.
• Have an outside meeting place where everyone should meet.
• If the alarm sounds, get out and stay out. Never go back inside for people or pets;
• If you have to escape through smoke, get low and go under the smoke;
• Call the fire department from outside your home;
• Keep your family safe with a working smoke alarm in every bedroom.