It's the middle of the night, the smoke detector has gone off and your house is burning. Do you have an escape plan? If not, you're not alone. A study carried out last year by the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs found that only 55 per cent of Canadians have ever practised a home fire drill.
Such a plan could save your life. Here are some tips from the Ontario Fire Marshal's office.
• Move fast. It can take less than three minutes for everything in your home to burn once a fire starts.
• Make a plan. Decide who in your household will assist any disabled or elderly family members, who will tend to the pets and who will be responsible for the children.
• Keep a close eye on kids. When the family is evacuating the house, hold onto your children. They're often frightened by fire and may try to hide or run back upstairs.
• Decide on a meeting place. Pick a place outside to regroup after leaving the house so you can account for everyone. Call the fire department from a neighbour's house or a cellphone.
• Know at least two means of escape. That goes for every area of the home: for the second floor, if there is no balcony or access to the roof of a garage or shed through a window, consider installing a fire escape ladder.
• Act smart. If you hear the smoke alarm in the night, react immediately. Before you open your bedroom door, feel the door with the back of your hand to see if it's hot. If it's not hot, open the door slowly to check for smoke or fire. If you encounter smoke, get down on your hands and knees and crawl to the nearest exit.
• Practise regularly. Go over the fire escape plan with those you live with at least twice a year.
The Ontario Fire Marshal's Public Fire Safety Council has an online information sheet to help you with your fire escape plan.