Fire escape strategies

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Preventative measures to minimise the risk of a fire in your home should be takeni, but accidents can happen. To be properly prepared in case of a fire, you need to have a tried and tested escape planii.

"Stop, drop and rolliii." "Get down low and go go goiv." This sage advice should be familiar to all Australians; catchphrases that were drilled into us as children and are still, literally, words to live by.

Whether an electrical short, an overheated appliance or something left on the stovev, you can protect your family from danger by creating a home fire escape plan, ensuring that everyone is familiar with the escape route, and practising it regularly so it can be executed fast - and without panicvi.

An unattended stove or overheated appliance can lead to fire.

There are many good resources online to guide you through the process, beginning with a simple grid to lay out the floor plan of your home and mark all the exitsvii. Remember that windows can be used to escape if doors are inaccessible so ensure they are not blocked on either side by furniture, trees and other hard-to-move objectsviii. For this reason, it is also recommended that you plan two exit points for each room.

The Building Code of Australia requires that security doors and bars fitted on windows must be easy to open or remove in the case of an emergencyix. If you have security doors and bars that are fixed, it is worth considering upgrading them to protect you and your family's safetyx.

Get into the practice of keeping a torch handy, and always know where your keys are. As you leave the house, close all doors behind you to stop the fire spreading and minimise smoke inhalation. Exit as quickly as possible without rushing - if you trip or fall, you may injure yourself and be unable to move at allxi.

Doors must be easy to open in the case of emergency.

Decide on an outdoor meeting place that is far enough from the house or apartment building, but at a distance that everyone can easily reach. Keep in mind that you may have to assist children or elderly people, and you might be carrying your pets. Your letterbox may be far enough away, or you could decide it's safer to go across the street. Once you are safely outside, stay there and call the Fire Brigade on 000. Never re-enter a burning building for any reasonxii.

If you live in a house and have bush or scrub close by, make sure your meeting place is far enough that you are not in danger of flames spreading to grass and trees. If you are in an apartment, do not use a lift and try to get down the fire stairs rather than heading for a roof where you could become trappedxiii.

i New South Wales Police Force, 2013, Fire Prevention Strategy, p.1,

ii South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service, 2012, Home Fire Escape Plan,

iii Department of Fire and Emergency Services, 2013, Safety Recommendations,

iv Fire and Rescue NSW, 2007, Lesson Plan 2,

v South Australian Country Fire Service, Common Causes of Fire,

vi Tasmania Fire Service, 2013, Home Escape Plan, p.1,

vii Metropolitan Fire Brigade, Home Fire Safety, 8 January 2013,

viii Fire and Rescue NSW, 2009, Grid and Instructions,

ix Australian Building Codes Board, 2011,

x Queensland Government, 2012, Fire Safety at Home, 2011,

xi Rural Fire Service, 2013, Bush Fire Survival Plan,

xii ACT Emergency Services Agency, 2011, Home Fire Escape Plan,

xiii Metropolitan Fire Brigade, 2009, Community Safety,