Home Fire Checklist

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Early Warning and Escape

Your family’s chance to escape a home fire depends on advance warning from smoke alarms and advance escape planning on your part.

Fire can spread rapidly through your home, leaving you as little as two minutes to escape safely once the alarm sounds.

According to a National Fire Protection Association survey, only one of every three American households have actually developed and practiced a home fire escape plan.

While 71% of Americans have an escape plan in case of a fire, only 47% of those have practiced it.

One-third of American households who made an estimate thought they would have at least 6 minutes before a fire in their home would become life-threatening. The time available is often less. And only 8% said their first thought on hearing a smoke alarm would be to get out!

That’s why it’s so important to have your alarms installed correctly and a home escape plan in place.

Smoke Alarms: Your First Line of Defense

To protect your home and your family, you should be able to check Yes on all of these:

  • Install alarms on every level of your home outside of each sleeping area and in each bedroom.
  • Make sure alarms are on the ceiling or 4-12 inches below the ceiling on the wall. Locate them away from air vents or registers; high air flow or “dead spots” are to be avoided.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper maintenance. Smoke alarms can save lives, but only if properly installed and maintained.
  • Excessive dust, grease, or other material in the alarm may cause it to fail. Vacuum the grillwork of your alarm.    
  • Batteries are replaced when needed.                                     
  • The alarm can be heard whether asleep or awake.              

Your Escape Plan: Every Second Counts

  • Plan fire escape with your family
    Establish and practice a home fire escape plan.
  • Teach your children the proper use of the 9-1-1 system.
  • Draw a map of each level of your home; show all doors and windows.
  • Find two ways out of each room. Make sure all doors and windows that lead outside open easily
  • Teach children how to escape on their own in case you cannot help them.
  • Have a plan for everyone in your home who has a disability.
  • Practice your fire escape plan at night and during the daytime.

Home Escape Plan

To protect your home and your family, you should be able to check Yes on all of these:

  • Do you have an escape plan?                                             ___YES  ___NO
  • Is it practiced regularly?                                                       ___YES  ___NO
  • The escape plan includes a safe place to meet up?        ___YES  ___NO
  • Are there two ways out of every room?                            ___YES  ___NO
  • 9-1-1 emergency number is posted on all phones.         ___YES  ___NO
A home escape plan includes:
  • Two exits from every room in the home (usually a door and a window).
  • Properly installed, working smoke alarms throughout the home.
  • A meeting place outside and in front of the home where everyone will meet immediately upon exiting.
  • Access to and knowledge of 9-1-1.

Teach Your Kids How To Survive a Fire

  • Children as young as three years old can follow a fire escape plan they have practiced often.
  • Practicing a fire escape plan and fire-safe behaviors on a regular basis can mean the difference between life and death.
  • Keep your child's bedroom door closed: it could keep out smoke in case of a fire.
  • Teach toddlers not to hide from firefighters. Take children for a tour at your local fire station so that they can see a firefighter in full gear.
  • Teach your children how to touch closed doors with the back of their hand to see if they are hot before opening. If so, use an alternate escape route.
  • Teach your children how to crawl under the smoke to reduce smoke inhalation.
  • Have a safe meeting place outside the home and teach children never to go back inside.

Don’t be too late with a home fire escape plan

It’s too late to start developing a home fire escape plan when fire strikes. Everyone in the home needs to be prepared in advance, so that they can snap into action when the smoke alarm sounds.

Smoke alarms provide the minutes needed to escape a fire safely. Home fire escape planning and practice ensure that everyone knows how to best use that time effectively.

If you have questions about our free smoke alarm program, please call:
Portland Fire & Rescue’s Smoke Alarm Hotline at (503) 823-3752


Portland Fire & Rescue - Public Education Office

Smoke Alarm Hotline

phone number503-823-3752Leave a message 24/7; we will return your call within 3 business days.