Emergency Preparedness —
Plan and Rehearse Your Escape
From a House Fire

For some people, emergency preparedness means

Disaster Preparedness.

I view emergency planning as the thinking, planning and rehearsing that will get you, your family and your dog to safety during a fire, gas leak or other life-threatening event inside your home.


Planning is the most important part of emergency preparedness. Even if you never rehearse an escape, early warnings and the proper equipment can get everyone out safely, and perhaps prevent a much more serious situation.

What follows is a list of actions you can take to reduce the chance of emergencies occurring. These actions will also help ensure that you get out of the house safely if an emergency does occur.

  • Place at least one smoke detector on every floor of your house. You'll all be safer if there is one in every room, but if you do not want to go to that expense, ensure that there is one in the hall leading to the sleeping quarters. If you have a house with two or more floors, place one at the top of the stairs.

    Use smoke detectors with long-life lithium ion batteries. These detectors will last about ten years before they need to be replaced.

  • If you heat with oil, natural gas or propane, or cook with natural gas or propane, have at least one carbon monoxide monitor in the house.

  • Test every smoke detector monthly. The battery may last ten years, but there's always a chance that it might be defective, or that some other part is defective. You'll only know that if you test the detector.

    Also test each carbon monoxide monitor regularly.

  • Have an ABC fire extinguisher near every source of heat that can ignite a fire. ABC stands for wood, paper and trash (A); grease and liquids, such as fuel oil or gasoline (B); and electrical equipment (C). You should have one near the stove/oven, near the wood stove, near the furnace, and near the hot water heater if you use natural gas, propane or heating oil.

Read the instructions to become familiar with the use of each extinguisher. Check them quarterly to ensure they are still fully charged. Talk to your insurance company or broker; some give discounts if you keep fire extinguishers in your house.

  • If you burn wood for heat or ambiance, have the stovepipe or chimney cleaned annually. Creosote builds up quickly. Creosote fires are a leading source of wood stove-related house fires.

    Also ensure that your walls and floor are properly protected with heat-resistant materials. Check your local or state/provincial building code, or contact the fire department for more information.

  • If your house has more than one floor, can people get to safety from the upper floors?

    You may need to add one or more fire escapes.

  • If you use electric heating, ensure that drapes do not rest on the baseboards.

  • Ensure that it is easy to unlock all exterior doors in the dark, and that they do not require a key to unlock from the inside.

  • Keep all hallways clear of obstacles such as toys, laundry baskets and boxes. A fire in the electrical panel could leave the house without lights. Your escape could be hampered or delayed by obstacles.
  • Rehearse your emergency preparedness

    Rehearsing your escape is also an important part of emergency preparedness. Rehearsals allow you to see what might go wrong during your escape and fix it. They also allow you to determine what you might need to do in different situations.

    Perhaps most important is this: the more you practice, the less likely that you and your family will panic when a real emergency forces you to act.

    Panic often leads to indecision, and indecision usually leads to inaction, which could cost you your life, or your dog's.

    Every year, thousands of people die in house fires. Countless pets die as well. Emergency preparedness will help ensure that you and your dog do not become casualties.