Firefighters break down how to create a fire escape plan

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Firefighters break down how to create a fire escape plan. (WWMT/Jason Heeres)

Fire fighters recommend families have an escape plan in case of a blaze and hold drills to practice how the plan works.

If a fire sparks in your home, Oshtemo Fire Lt. Eric Burghardt said you only have minutes to escape before things get out of hand.

“If the door was open it’s not even minutes it’s so rapid,” he said. “Once a fire starts inside a home it grows so rapidly, and it’s not the fire that’s going to get you, it’s the toxic gases.”

He points to the rapid spread as the reason creating an escape plan for your family as crucial to your safety.

The holidays are a critical time to create and practice the plans because there are more opportunities for in-home fires with items like dry Christmas trees, candles and lights.

It is important to practice the plan to be able to react quickly during an emergency.

“You have the potential to freeze,” Burghardt said. "We have an emergency, the smoke detectors are going off, it’s loud, some of them have lights associated with them, they’re bright, then you have the smoke coming in, it can be overwhelming.”

Freezing takes up precious moments from an escape.

Burghardt said people will usually by head to the door out they normally use to enter and exit a home out of instinct, which during a fire could prove deadly.

“Whether it’s your garage door, your front door, your back door, in the event of an emergency you’re going to go with what you know. So, it’s important to emphasis the fact that any door and window can be an exit to your structure if there’s an emergency to get out,” Burghardt said.

He said a way to brake that mindset is to train multiple scenarios and multiple ways of exiting your home.

“Don’t allow them to always use the same door over and over again to get out of the house, force them to go to the other door.” He said, "They need to know how to open those windows, if there’s a screen, how to pop those screens out and then how to exit through a window."

Burghardt said one way to buy some time is shutting the bedroom doors before going to sleep.

“If that door is shut, you have an extended period of time to either evacuate or shelter in place and wait for the arrival of the fire department,” Burghardt said.

There are simple steps for that families can practice.

“Get low on the ground and then work your way to the door, which hopefully was shut to begin with, and feel the door,” he said. “If the door is warm or you can see smoke coming from the door frame, that may not be your safest way out. Your safest way out might be the window.”

He said creating a plan, but not practicing the plan, is a mistake.

“It doesn’t do you any good to tell your kids over and over again, ‘get out of the house if you hear the bell.’ If they’ve never heard it before or they’ve never done it before they’re not going to.”

Burghardt urges families visit the National Fire Protection Association’s website for additional tips.

He also encourages families visit for other family safety tips.