Plan and practice: Why you need a home fire escape plan

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Posted at 11:56 AM, Apr 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-23 19:18:46-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Smoke and flames billowed from a condo building in Norfolk early Thursday morning. Residents in the Colonial Park neighborhood reported several residents living there had to jump several stories to safety.

"'Somebody please help me,' that's all I kept saying," said one resident who narrowly escaped Thursday morning.

That unbelievably scary situation is a true testament to have a fire escape plan in place and practice it.

"The plan is what you will activate when you hear the smoke alarm go off, and everyone in your family knows exactly what they are gonna do, where they will go," said Corey Johnson, a fire and safety educator with the Hampton Division of Fire and Rescue.

Johnson says crews in Hampton battled a similar high-rise fire just like Norfolk last week.

"When you are dealing with an apartment or high-rise structures, it is very, very important before an emergency happens to be familiar with the layout," Johnson said.

Elevators are likely a no-go, so know your stairwells in and out and where the fire pull alarms are located to alert other tenants.

"A home fire escape plan comes together after you develop an overhead map of the room with exits," he said.

Johnson says you need to have two ways out of every room. Identify a door or a window.

"Before opening any doors, make sure you are touching it with the back of your hand to make sure it's not hot," Johnson said. "If there is some smoke, be sure to cover your nose and mouth, stay low and get out as quickly as possible."

Johnson says you should also have a meeting place in the plan. It can be something like a tree, mailbox or light pole for all occupants to meet outside the home, then call 911.

"This plan also incorporates having working smoke alarms in your house. It's the number one most important item you can have in your home," he said. "If you have it, you have a 50 percent greater chance of surviving the fire."

The National Fire Protection Association says 71 percent of Americans have a fire escape plan, but less than half of that have practiced it.

"You need to practice it twice a year: at night and in the daytime," Johnson said.

It's a simple tool for all families that could save your life and the lives of first responders called into action.

"Emergency situations are not going to wait for us, they can happen anytime, any place, to anybody," Johnson said.