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Practice makes safety

Oct. 7, 2019

Go to a safe meeting place, stay put, take a head count

Remember playing baseball in the backyard, when the dog ran through the game and grabbed the ball? You and your friends could just call a do-over and try again. Or what about the first time you tried to make your grandma’s bread recipe? It came out inedible. But you called a do-over and tried again.

There are some things in life where you’ll never get a do-over, though. Escaping a fire is great example. If you don’t carry out your fire escape plan correctly (or worse, if you don’t have an escape plan at all), you may not get another chance to do it right—you have to do it right the first time, or you or your family members could die or be seriously injured.

They say practice makes perfect, and in this case they’re right. Especially considering the fact that there can be a lot of added stressors when your house is on fire in the form of smoke, fear, disorientation, and screaming – not to mention that smoke alarm blaring in your ear. The idea is to practice something until it becomes second nature, so that you can do it under pressure when the time comes.

Another reason to have an escape plan ready and practiced is that in a typical home fire, you have as little as one to two minutes to escape safely from the time the smoke alarm sounds. In 120 seconds, can you make a careful plan, then carry it out safely and accurately with all your family members? Especially with young children, you can’t assume they’ll know what to do. Many young children even try to hide from the flames and smoke.

That’s why this year’s Fire Prevention Week theme is “Not every hero wears a cape: Plan and practice your escape!” This week is a great time to sit down with your family and map out an escape plan that you can practice twice a year. Wondering where to start? Check out this fact sheet from the State Fire Marshal Division. There is also this how-to from the National Fire Protection Association that features step-by-step instructions, a sample plan, and a grid so you can draw your own escape plan and start practicing.

So remember: Don’t try to get it right the first time, when your house is engulfed in flames. If you plan and practice your escape with the whole family, you’ll be less likely to need a do-over.