Exit Drills in the Home

Exit Drills in the Home (EDITH)

Developing and practicing a home fire escape plan that everyone understands can mean the difference between life and death.

In the event of a fire, remember – time is the biggest enemy and every second counts! Escape plans help you get out of your home quickly. In less than 30 seconds a small flame can get completely out of control and turn into a major fire. It only takes minutes for a house to fill with thick black smoke and become engulfed in flames.

Once a fire has started in your home, there is no time to plan how to get out. Sit down with your family today and make a step-by-step plan for escaping a fire that might occur in your home.

Draw a Floor Plan of Your Home
Show two ways out of every room—especially sleeping areas. Discuss the escape routes with every member of your household.

Agree on a Meeting Place
Select a safe place where every member of the household will gather outside your home after escaping a fire to wait for the fire department. This allows you to count heads and inform the fire department if anyone is missing or trapped inside the burning building.

Practice Your Escape Plan
Practice escape plan. This is especially important with children to ensure they react to the alarm and know what to do. The best plans have two ways to get out of each room. If the primary way is blocked by fire or smoke, you will need a second way out. A secondary route might be a window. From upper story windows, you may need to use an Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) approved collapsible ladder for escape. Make sure windows are not stuck, screens can be taken out quickly and that security bars can be properly opened. Also, practice feeling your way out of the house in the dark or with your eyes closed.

Be Prepared
Make sure everyone in your household can unlock all doors and windows quickly, even in the dark. Windows or doors with security bars need to be equipped with quick-release devices and everyone in your household should know how to use them. Ensure you have fire escape ladders for multi-story dwellings.

Make Your Escape Realistic
Things are not the same when there is an actual fire as they are when you are practicing. Pretend during your drill that some exits are blocked by fire and practice alternative routes.


Test Doors before Opening Them
When you come to a closed door, use the back of your hand to feel the top of the door, the doorknob, and the crack between the door and door frame to make sure that fire is not on the other side. If it feels hot, use your secondary escape route. Even if the door feels cool, open it carefully and slowly. If heat and smoke come in, slam the door and make sure it is securely closed, then use your alternate escape route.

If You Are Trapped
Close all doors between you and the fire. Stuff the cracks around the doors to keep the smoke out. Wait at a window and signal for help with a flashlight or by waving a light colored cloth. If there is a phone in the room, call 9-1-1 and report exactly where you are. DON’T PANIC!

Getting Out
Smoke and heat both rise and smoke contains deadly gases. During a fire, cleaner air will be found near the floor. If you encounter smoke when using your primary exit, use an alternative escape route. If you must exit through smoke, crawl on your hands and knees, keeping your head 12-24 inches above the floor. Put a towel or handkerchief over your face to protect you from the smoke.

Once You Are Out—Stay Out!
Remember to escape first, then notify the fire department by calling 911. Never go back into a burning building for any reason. Teach children not to hide from firefighters. If someone is missing, tell the firefighters. They are equipped to perform rescues safely. Never return inside your home to rescue pets or to save important documents and/or photos. The heat and smoke of a fire are overpowering. Firefighters have the training, experience, and protective equipment needed to enter burning buildings.

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Carissa Higginbotham
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