Recently, a home burned down in our community and left a family homeless and without any of their belongings. It’s heartbreaking when something like that happens, and I am always grateful for the volunteer fire department in our village for their rapid response and extraordinary efforts. They often save lives even in times when they cannot save structures. It made me realize how important it is to have an emergency plan.

Every emergency plan should start with prevention.

  • Change the batteries in your smoke detectors every six months. If you have 10-year smoke detectors, as we’re required to in New York, test them every six months to make sure they work.
  • Make sure entries and exits to your home are accessible and functional (including windows).
  • Install a CO2/Carbon Monoxide detector.
  • Have fire extinguishers in logical places – the kitchen, near your fireplace, in your basement or garage.

Designate a Meeting Place

In the chaos of a fire or other emergency, your family may get separated. Designate a meeting place ahead of time where you’ll all agree to meet. We’ve designated our neighbor’s home, which is across the street from us and a safe space for us in time of emergency. The Red Cross actually suggests having two meeting places – one for outside of your home in case of a fire, and one outside of your neighborhood in case it’s an emergency that prevents you from getting to your home.

Establish the Escape Route

There are eight people in our home, on two floors covering more than 2400 square feet. We have three exits in three different parts of the house and two access points to the basement, from which there are another two exits to the outside. Knowing where each person should go depending on where the fire is or what the emergency is can be daunting – but if you don’t think about it when your head is clear and focused, you’ll be scrambling during an emergency.

Plan Your Communications

Who would you need to tell you are safe? How would you communicate with each other? Do your kids understand what they need to do in an emergency? What if they are home alone?

Establishing, discussing, and practicing your families evacuation and emergency plan is essential. To help you develop your emergency plan, visit these helpful resources:

Red Cross