Emergency Evacuation Plan for Your Home – The Steps to Take in Order to be Prepared

COLIN O’NEILL

EHS Consultant

EazySAFE

One of the first questions I ask a group when I am delivering Fire Warden or Fire Safety Awareness Training is, “Who here has an emergency evacuation plan for their home?” Unfortunately, it is surprising if I get more than one person in a group saying yes…

The initial reaction is nearly always the same – the first few seconds are met with almost a snigger as people think it is a rhetorical question. When they realise that I’m serious, they start to have a think about it and you can almost see the realisation come over their faces, seemingly thinking “hmm, maybe that is a good idea”. It IS a good idea, in fact it’s a great idea and what better time than now to put one in place.

We are currently living in strange and testing times. The COVID-19 Global Pandemic is restricting us all to a more confined life at home. Although these times have brought with them uncertainty, change and a lot of hardship, there are some positives to be taken too. This time at home allows us to be with the people we love the most in our families, time to reflect and time to chill out from the constantly busy lives that proceeded these times.

So, while we have this downtime, let’s add another notch on the positivity belt by using the time to plan, educate and practice with our families, the safe way to evacuate the home in the event of an unplanned emergency. Here are six simple steps to follow.

 

Involve Everyone

The simple way to put together an emergency evacuation plan for your home, is to replicate the steps carried out at work. When a fire drill takes place in the workplace, ALL staff members are required to partake and evacuate the building together. Doing one at home should be no different. If you have young children, turn the whole thing into a game. Children are sponges and are constantly soaking up information all around them (not always great if you’re talking ill of the neighbour’s dog, as they’ll remember it months later and possible land you in trouble with said neighbour) but fantastic for this exercise.

If they are having fun whilst doing it, all the better, they will soak up the route/s out of the house and evacuating will become second nature to them after just a couple of drills. It also teaches the children not to become afraid if the smoke alarm does go off in an emergency as they’ll know exactly what to do. You may find they’re the ones leading you out the door before you realise what’s going on. So young or old, whoever is in your home, make sure to include them in the plans and the drills so everyone is fully aware of the procedure.

 

 

Map Your Routes

It goes without saying that your home is setup a lot differently to the workplace and you may not have the luxury of internal fire doors or multiple fire exits, giving you a very quick egress from the building no matter where you are.

Given this fact, the home can pose a bigger threat to your safety and the safety of your family, if a fire is allowed to spread quickly. Therefore, mapping your routes and having alternative exits are vital for safe egress from the building. Your normal entry and exit point from your home should always be the priority and the first exit you go to in the event of an emergency. However, fire is very unpredictable so if this normal exit is compromised, you will need to have a plan B and possibly C.

To give you an example of my own personal planed routes; our primary exit point is straight down the stairs and out the front door to the front garden, where we would wait, away from the building, for the emergency services to arrive.

If this route is compromised, our agreed alternative is out the window of one of the rear bedrooms as it leads out on to an extended roof from the kitchen below. Have a look around your property and acknowledge these alternative routes because they may be the saving of you and your family if needed.

 

See and Be Seen

Again, similarly to the workplace where the employer is bound by legislation to have the emergency lighting, smoke alarms etc. testing every 13 weeks, why not test your own equipment periodically. You don’t want to find out your smoke alarm system doesn’t work when you’re in the middle of a fire, it’s too late then. So test periodically. I personally keep to the 13 week schedule for my own home.

In the event of an emergency, your property will need to be visible to the emergency services, so they can get to your as efficiently as possible. Make sure the number or name of your house is clearly visible from the road to avoid any delays in them finding you.

 

Act Fast

As part of your drills, really emphasize to your family that acting fast is the most important element to any emergency situation. If the fire alarm goes off in your home and your family are prepared to act instantly, you give yourselves a far better chance against injuries or even worse, fatalities.

As well as acting fast upon fire alarm activation, there is one major step you can take in advance, as a proactive measure, which gives you an advantage if an emergency situation develops. This is simply closing all the doors behind you when locking up the house and going to bed at night. This sounds almost too simple to be effective, but it will serve as a key component in the spread of a fire if done correctly.

As I mentioned earlier, your home will not be fitter with Fire Doors (unless you live in an apartment block) as the workplace is. Fire doors are fire rated to hold a fire back for a period of time, to allow safe evacuation. This is called compartmentalisation. However, your standard timber panel door which is found in most residential buildings will retain a fire for up to 15 minutes, which should be long enough for you and your family to evacuate safely and wait for the emergency services to arrive.

Statistically speaking, a residential fire is more likely to occur in the kitchen or the living room, which both see high volumes of electrical equipment used. If you close all the doors in the evening when going to bed, the spread of the fire will be contained for longer, giving you and your family that time to evacuate safely. If all doors are left open, the smoke from a fire will very quickly find its way through the home to the bedrooms.

*Always remember, smoke is the killer, not necessarily the flames. Smoke travels faster than the flames and has all the toxic, poisonous fumes & gases.

 

Call for Help

We are all, by nature, very reluctant of change. However, one of the greatest and most efficient changes that has been made in Ireland over the past few years was the introduction of the Eircode. In the event of an emergency, the Eircode has become the emergency services single best ally. It allows them to pinpoint the exact location where help is needed and helps their efficient arrival on the scene.

Make sure all members of your family are aware of the appropriate numbers to call, whether it’s 999 or 112, you never know what will happen in an emergency and who will be needed or capable of making this call, so everyone should be aware and prepared.

 

Practice

Finally, as the old saying goes “practice makes perfect”. Although, there is no such thing as “perfect” in an emergency situation and you never know how people will react until they are in it. However, the more you practice, the more prepared your family will be to react appropriately if the time ever comes.

Also, think about guests you may have staying over for a night or two. It may seem weird to mention it to them, but for them waking up in a strange place, with a fire alarm blasting, may not cause them to think logically. So, if the escape route and alternative routes are pointed out to them beforehand, it may just come in useful for them too.

 

I hope by now you are like the student in my class after they’ve thought about it and your mindset is now also, “Hmm, maybe that’s a good idea.” It’s your home. More importantly, it’s your family, so it IS a good idea. Hopefully some of the steps discussed above can act as food for thought and help you come up with your own home evacuation.

We at EazySAFE have launched a single page infographic with the points discussed to act as a simple reminder and can be downloaded here. If you need any other assistance in your own home evacuation plan, or indeed one for the workplace, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

Stay Safe.

For EHS Support during COVID-19, please get in touch.

 

 

 

 

Image credit:

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

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