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SFMO Reminds Tennesseans to Have & Practice Home Escape Plan

A Home Fire Escape Plan Can Be the Difference between Life and Death in a Fire
Thursday, July 19, 2018 | 08:10am

NASHVILLE – It’s a scenario no one wants to think about: You wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of a smoke alarm and your room quickly filling with smoke. While research shows many Americans think they have ample time to escape a house fire, the reality is that you could have as little as one or two minutes before being overcome by smoke. The Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) is reminding Tennesseans that the best way to ensure a safe escape is to plan and practice a home fire escape plan.

“When a fire breaks out, a matter of seconds can be the difference between life and death,” said State Fire Marshal and Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “Early warning and advanced planning are critical in ensuring you and your family escape safely. For this reason, we recommend every Tennessean have working smoke alarms and a fire escape plan.”

Data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) shows that while 71 percent of Americans have an escape plan in case of a fire, only 47 percent of those have practiced it. The SFMO urges residents to not only create a home fire escape plan with a designated outside meeting place, but to practice the plan at least twice a year with everyone who lives in the home.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office offers the following tips to ensure your family is fire safe:

Be Prepared

  • Install smoke alarms inside and outside every sleeping area and on every level of your home.                                                                 
  • Test your smoke alarms monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Replace your smoke alarms every 10 years.
  • Ensure everyone in the household knows the sound of the smoke alarm and what it signifies.
  • Ensure everyone in the household can unlock and open all doors and windows, even in the dark.
  • If a room has a window air conditioner, make sure there is still a second way out of the room. Windows with security bars, grills, and window guards should have emergency release devices. Make sure you can operate these.
  • Conduct family fire drills. Make sure everyone living in the house knows two ways out of every room.
  • Pick a meeting place. The meeting place should be a permanent fixture, like a large tree, and should be far enough from the house to ensure everyone’s safety in an emergency.
  • Children, older adults, and people with disabilities may need assistance to wake up and get out. Make sure that someone will help them.
  • Teach your children how to escape on their own in case you cannot help them.

Get Out

  • If the smoke alarm sounds or fire is discovered in your home, get out fast. Close doors behind you as you leave to help stop the spread of the fire.
  • Doors need to be tested before opening them. Use the back of your hand to see if the door is warm. If it is, use another escape route.
  • Close the door when escaping a fire. A closed door can limit property loss and increase survivability during a home fire.
  • If you have to escape through smoke, get low and go under the smoke to your way out.
  • If you are trapped, close all doors between you and the fire. Stuff the cracks around the doors with clothes or towels to keep out smoke.
  • Call the fire department, wait at a window and signal for help with a light-colored cloth or a flashlight.

Stay Out

  • Once you are out, stay out. Don't go back inside for any reason.
  • Call the fire department from your safe outside meeting place.
  • If people or pets are trapped, notify the fire department and let them handle the rescue efforts.

To help create a home fire escape plan, print the State Fire Marshal’s home fire safety tip sheet, which has an escape grid and instructions on the back. For more information on fire safety and to download a free, high-resolution calendar, visit