Keep Your Kids Safe: Create a Fire Escape Plan

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Two children looking at big fire

According to a recent Good Morning America segment on fire safety, an estimated half of all house fires happen in the middle of the night while everyone is asleep.  Additionally, more than 80 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 13 do not wake up from a standard issued fire alarm.

Why don’t children wake up? Dr. Robert Cole, lead facilitator for BIC’s play safe! be safe! fire safety education program and one of the nation’s leading experts on child fire safety, explains that “children, young children in particular, have a remarkable ability to block out sounds that are not relevant to them when they are asleep. This explains how they can fall asleep at a big sporting event. The typical smoke alarm is just such a sound. Even if they are awakened, they will fight fully waking up, pulling their pillow or covers over their heads. Children also spend more time in deep sleep than adults. This too makes them less likely to awaken to the sound of the alarm.”

What can parents do? Create a fire escape plan that accounts for children not waking up, and more importantly, practice the plan. Dr. Cole says, “Parents should understand that children, especially preschool and early elementary school children are unlikely to wake up at the sound of the alarm and should build that into their exit plan. They should decide in advance who will get which children. Practicing the family exit plan will make everyone, including groggy children, respond more quickly and efficiently. Practicing the exit plan at night once the children are asleep also increase the likelihood that the children will awaken in a real emergency after the sound becomes part of a practiced behavior.”

Follow this Escape Plan Checklist when creating a plan for your family:

  • Develop an escape plan for your home that accounts for the capabilities of everyone there, including children. Make sure the plan clearly describes what everyone should do if the alarm sounds.
  • Identify at least two routes out of every room, or anywhere someone might be sleeping.
  • Identify a meeting place and remember to teach your kids once they get out, stay out!
  • Take turns pretending to call 911 as practice. Every family member should be prepared to provide the emergency dispatcher with their name, address, phone number, nearest corner to the house, and the reason for the call
  • Try out your plan to make sure it is feasible.
  • Periodically practice your plan. Practice will make it more likely that everyone will remember their responsibilities and act quickly, especially if awakened during the night.
  • Update your plan when there are changes in your home or family.

An unexpected house fire is scary, especially when there are young children in the home. Make sure that your family is prepared by sharing your escape plan with babysitters, family and friends in case you are not home if a fire strikes. For more information on fire safety, visit the play safe! be safe! website at


  1. says

    We have always had a fire escape plan. However, I definitely won’t be expecting my kids to get out alone. I would make a beeline straight to them in case of a fire.

  2. Rebecca Swenor says

    This is a great post and great escape plan checklist I have always thought it was so important for any family to have a fire escape plan in place. My parents had us do test runs every so often to make sure we knew what to do and I did the same with my kids. Thanks for the awareness.

  3. says

    Thanks for this post. It is not common to come across blog posts that speak about keeping families safe during emergencies. This is worth sharing with friends and family. Again, thank you for a very timely reminder for every family to map out an escape plan in cases of fire or other emergencies.

  4. says

    I’ve wanted to do this for awhile now with my kids. We’ve briefly talked about fire safety. We did more at our other house, but haven’t much at this house. I think mainly because my son’s window is really easy to get out of and he can climb a tree down to the ground, but he still could break a leg. Anyway, talking about it with our kids is must!

  5. says

    Fire safety is such an important thing to remember! We have a two-story home and I worry about an escape route if we were stuck upstairs. We are good about checking our smoke alarms.

  6. says

    This is such a great idea. We used to have a plan, but it’s been so long since we went over it, I don’t think I would remember it. This needs to change.

  7. says

    When our children were young and even up to when they left home we always had a fire escape plan. We even practiced it several times during the year so the kids would know what to do.

  8. says

    Yes, this is definitely a scary situation. I live in an apartment house. An old house (1900) that was turned into 4 apartments. My apartment is on the 2nd and 3rd floors. In our bedrooms, we have ladders that we can drop out of our windows from the 3rd floor. I’m not sure how I’d do with this, but my son would be safe, which is what matters to me!

  9. says

    My husband was a fire fighter before a back injury took him out, so we’ve always been super careful about making sure we have a family plan for emergencies such as fires! This is a great reminder :)

  10. says

    I wasn’t thinking about a fire escape plan in my building this month, but a tornado shelter plan. The winds have been terrible and we still aren’t sure if we go into our closet or go out into the hallways.

  11. robin rue says

    This is SO important for all families to have in place. We have a plan and the kids know what to do in case of a fire.

  12. says

    Creating a fire escape plan for the family is so important. When I was 12, our house burned to the ground. Thankfully, we were not home but it’s a horrible experience I never want to face again.

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