Have an Escape Plan
Once a smoke alarm sounds, you'll only have about three minutes to escape a flaming fire, according to new research by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. "Every family member needs to know and practice a fire escape plan so you can act fast in an emergency," says Taylor. "Fire spreads quickly, and the smoke can get really thick." Most fire deaths are caused by smoke inhalation rather than burns.
Rehearse your plan at least twice a year, once in daylight and once at night (people are much more likely to die from nighttime fires). You should find two possible ways out of each room and decide how you'll get your children out safely. If you have second- or third-story bedrooms, consider buying fire-escape ladders. But don't just buy one and put it under the bed. "Make sure that the ladder fits the window, and use it only if all other ways out are blocked," says Comoletti.
Show your children how to close doors behind them to help slow the spread of the fire, and tell them that they should never open a door that feels hot. Instead, go out through a window or stay put and wait for help. In case you have to escape through smoke, teach kids to "get low and go under the smoke," because air closer to the ground will be less smoky. Designate a family meeting place outside the house, such as a neighbor's yard, and emphasize that once you're out, you never go back inside for any reason. Call 911 or the fire department from a nearby house or from your cell phone only after you're safely outside. If someone is trapped in the house, tell the emergency dispatcher.