Fire Won’t Wait. Plan Your Escape.

By Ashley Lopez

Ocala Fire Rescue is joining the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in celebrating the 100th observance of Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 9-15)! Though we may be slightly biased, this year’s theme is undoubtedly great: “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape.”

Making and practicing a fire escape plan should be a family affair. However, like any activity considered a task, getting everyone on the same page can be challenging. We dare you to gather your troops this fire prevention week and let the escape planning adventure begin.

Once all family members are present, the first step is to inspect your home. Unsure of what to look for? Finding two ways out of every room is a great way to start.

According to, an official U.S. Department of Homeland Security website, a small flame can turn into a major fire in less than 30 seconds. With no time to spare, it is crucial to know how to exit each room if the main entry point is out of play. In most spaces, your two ways out will consist of a window and a door.

If you include windows in your egress plans, make sure they are accessible and can be opened and shut easily. Residents of multi-story buildings should also consider how to exit safely through a window that is not on the ground floor and whether the need for an escape ladder exists.

As you examine the rooms, take a moment to identify and test smoke detectors. Although this test may not produce the most pleasant sound, it will allow you to verify that the safety system is in working order while exposing your family to the alarming sound that could save their lives during a fire.

With emergency exits and detectors marked on your emergency exit plan, it’s time to head outside.

We’ve all heard the tagline stop, drop and roll, but do your children know these actions will only be helpful if their person or clothes are on fire? During a building fire, the essential thing to do is to get up and go; this is where the next planning phase comes in: designating a meeting place.

Your meeting place should be outside the structure but close enough to the home that everyone can access it safely. Your mailbox or a tree in front of the house can serve as such a place.

As trivial as it may seem, having a meeting place is vital to your escape plan. Having a designated meeting point means neither family members nor first responders will fret trying to find someone – who safely exited the structure – in the burning building.

Now that you have a plan, practicing is the only thing left to do. Whether you present this drill as an American Ninja Warrior adventure or a princess’s escape, entice your family’s attention as you run through the escape plan’s motions, because practicing this family game could save your lives.

The NFPA recommends that these drills take place twice a year, but with endless theme options, the possibilities are endless. Give your family the gift of preparedness: make a plan, practice your escape drill and make being ready part of your routine.

For more information about fire escape plans or to download an escape grid, visit 

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