Fire Prevention and Safety Tips Series: Escape Planning

City of Redwood City
Oct 14 · 6 min read

Reminders and Safety Tips from the Redwood City and San Carlos Fire Departments

Plan Ahead!

If a fire breaks out in your home, you may have only a few minutes to get to safety once the smoke alarm sounds. Everyone needs to know what to do and where to go if there is a fire.

Home fires can spread rapidly, leaving you as little as one or two minutes to escape. Something as simple as a closed door may slow the spread of smoke, heat, and fire, giving you a few extra minutes to escape. Make sure your family members sleep with their bedroom doors shut.

Install alarms on every level of your home. You should have a working alarm in every sleeping room and outside of each separate sleeping area.

Get everyone in your family together and make a plan. Walk through your home and inspect all possible exits and escape routes.

Planning Your Escape

If your household includes children, consider drawing a map of your home, marking two ways out of each room, including windows and doors, and keeping a copy in each bedroom and in a common area. Your map should show all doors and windows. Use three different colors when drawing your escape routes and window locations. Choose one color to identify the primary escape route, a second color to identify the secondary escape route, and a third color to identify window locations in each room. Mark all of the smoke alarm locations in your home with the letters “SA.”

Walk through your home and inspect all possible exits and escape routes. Make sure all the escape routes are clear and that the doors and windows can be opened easily. Identify two ways out of every room.

Designate a family meeting place outside of your home where everyone can meet. It could be a neighbor’s home, the mailbox, a stop sign, or a tree.

Make sure your house number is clearly visible from the street. If you can’t see it, neither can first responders.

Discuss the plan with everyone in your home. Make sure to practice your plan at least twice a year.

Discuss the Plan with Your Family

Find a way for everyone to sound a family fire alarm, like blowing a whistle, pounding on walls, yelling, etc. In a fire, seconds count. Don’t waste time dressing or looking for valuables or pets. Roll out of bed. Get low and go!

Before you exit, feel the door using the back of your hand. If the door or doorknob is hot, don’t open it. Instead, take your second escape route. Once outside, go to your family meeting place. Get out and stay out! Make sure to close doors behind you as you leave to impede the spread of fire. Call the fire department from outside your home.

Test Your Plan

Practice your home fire escape plan twice a year. Practice the fire drill at night and during the day with everyone in your home, using different ways out. Teach children how to escape on their own in case you aren’t there or can’t help them escape.

Smoke alarms are a key part of a home fire escape. Smoke travels rapidly when there is a fire, and smoke inhalation kills. Working smoke alarms can provide you with an early warning so you can get outside quickly.

Smoke alarms do not last forever. If your alarms are 10 years old, replace them with new smoke alarms.

Safety Tips

Install smoke alarms or combination smoke alarm/carbon monoxide detectors in every bedroom. They should also be located outside each sleeping area and on every level of your home. Don’t forget to install smoke alarms in the basement. Large homes may need extra smoke alarms.

It is best to use interconnected smoke alarms. When one smoke alarm sounds, they all sound. Be sure to test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors at least once a month. Press the test button to be sure the alarm is working. A smoke alarm should be on the ceiling or high on a wall. Keep smoke alarms away from the kitchen to reduce false alarms. They should be at least 10 feet from a stove. There are special alarms available for people who are hearing impaired. These alarms have strobe lights and bed shakers. If someone in your household has difficulty hearing, make sure you have this type of alarm in their sleeping area.

Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning by installing carbon monoxide detectors in your home. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and poisonous gas. It is often deadly.

Burning fuels such as gasoline, propane, natural gas, oil, or wood produce carbon monoxide. Fuel-burning devices that could produce carbon monoxide in a fire can be found throughout your home. Your furnace, gas range/stove, gas powered clothes dryer, water heater, generator, fireplace, and chimney are all possible sources of carbon monoxide. At least one carbon monoxide detector must be installed on each floor of your home, including the basement and in your garage if it is attached to your home.


Exit Drills In The Home

Exit Drills In The Home can help people prepare for an emergency. Most home fires occur at night, when people are sleeping and are the least prepared to react. Home fires can become a disaster if you and your family are not familiar with how to escape during an emergency.

Toxic gases and heat, which can reach over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, rise quickly and can travel far ahead of the actual flames. When your smoke alarm sounds, you may have just minutes to get out.

Be sure everyone in your home has two ways out. Escape ladders may be necessary. Be sure any security devices installed in the home, like locks and dead bolts, open easily. If necessary, rearrange bedroom furniture to provide a clear escape path for children, elderly, or disabled residents. Never use an elevator if there is a fire.

The Redwood City and San Carlos Fire Departments urge everyone to PLAN and PRACTICE your ESCAPE!

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has been the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week since 1922. According to the National Archives and Records Administration’s Library Information Center, Fire Prevention Week is the longest running public health and safety observance on record. The President of the United States has signed a proclamation declaring a national observance during that week every year since 1925.

Visit for more safety information

For more safety tips, go for more online resources.

Online Resources

NFPA Home Fire Escape Plan Grid Sheet
NFPA Smoke Alarm Calendar Safety Sheet
Smoke Detectors
Public Safety Power Shutoff Flyer
Redwood City Fire Department Disaster Preparedness Online Resources
Sign-Up for Local Emergency Alerts
PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff Frequently Asked Questions
PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff Fact Sheet (English)
PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff Fact Sheet (Spanish)

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Information & Perspectives from the City

City of Redwood City

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Official thoughts and communications from the heart of the Peninsula. “Climate Best by Government Test”.

Redwood City VOICE

Information & Perspectives from the City

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