Have you ever heard the old saying, “always leave yourself an out”? Well it can be interpreted in so many ways but for window and door experts, we understand that’s especially true for home fires. Every family should have an escape plan in case of a fire. It’s important that everyone in the home knows exactly what to do during a time when they may be overcome with panic. Taking the time to prepare an escape plan could mean the difference between life or death.
Here’s a helpful guide to making a home escape plan:
Draw a floor plan
The escape plan should be discussed together as a group so that everyone is on the same page and understands fully. Start with drawing a simple floor plan of each floor in your home: The ground floor, the second (or third) story, and the basement. Don’t worry about the size of the room, the plan doesn’t have to be to scale it just needs to detail the rooms separated by walls and the accessible doors, windows, and hallways for each area. Label all the room and ensure that everyone is aware of where all the hallways, windows and doorways are located.
Inspect your windows
A bedroom window is a viable escape route if all the hallway leading from the bedroom is blocked by a fire. Check that all your windows are unlocking and opening with ease. The last thing you need during a time of panic is to be struggling with opening a window that could be your only escape,
According to the International Residential Code, a bedroom window can be between 24 and 44 inches from the floor, it needs at least 5.7 square feet for the opening, and it must measure no less than 24 inches high and 20 inches wide. In Ontario, an EGress window is not required by law in a bedroom above ground however, it is still a preference for most homeowners to want an EGress window installed in all the bedrooms of the home.
In the case of a fire, the bedroom window is not typically the the ordinary escape route but if the only escape route leading from the bedroom to safety is filled with smoke or worse, blocked with fire, having an EGress window in the bedroom could mean the difference between life and death. Determine whether or not there is a rooftop you would be able to step out onto leading out from the bedroom window or if having an escape ladder or rope should be planned for.
Any area that the stairs is the sole escape route such as bedrooms on the top floor or a basement, will need an alternate escape path to the exterior of the home. Egress windows give the home that added safety by providing an alternate route of escape in the case of fire or emergencies. An installed egress window in every room in the basement ensures that every person in the home has access to a safe exit at all times. EGress windows will replace the dingy old windows and allow natural light to pour into your basement, turning an otherwise pitch black room into a well-lit and functional area.
Your Egress window provides you an emergency exit in case of a fire. Having a working smoke detector in the home is key, but that’s only half the job done. You need to have an exit plan in place once the fire and smoke alarm starts blaring. An Egress window is one of the important safety features for your home, especially if you’re utilizing the basement as a living and bedroom area. An Egress window should be easy to operate. Any type of window that requires several steps to operate will not work well in a time of crisis and panic. Casement windows are typically the best choice as an Egress window. The tall design and way of opening allows for easy an escape if needed.
Decide on a meeting place
A meeting place is a safe area outside the home, perhaps across the street safely away from fire. Having a meeting place where all the members of the home are aware of will allow you to immediately know exactly who made it out and who you can report missing to the firefighters. Every second counts during a time of crisis and being extremely diligent can save a life.
Practice a Fire Drill
It may seem silly, but we all remember doing this at school and it’s a practice method that works! Practice a fire drill at home with all members of the household present. Do two practice runs: One scenario as if everyone is sleeping in the middle of the night and the other as a normal day, hanging around the house. Test both the primary exits and then the secondary exits.
Most older homes were not built with proper size basement or bedroom EGress windows. If you’re unsure whether or not your windows meet EGress window requirements and you’re considering remodelling your home to provide alternate exits in case of a home fire you’ll need to consult with a window expert to help with the size, design, and installation.
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