Half of all house fires happen in the middle of the night when families are sleeping. The first step to protecting yourself is to have a well-practiced escape plan.

“Forty years ago, due to a home’s construction and the quality of materials inside, you would have around 17 minutes to get out of your house in the event of a fire. Today, because of modern materials, you only have three minutes,” says Andy Fischer, public information officer with the Pleasant Hill-Goshen Rural Fire Protection District.

Close before you doze
When a fire occurs, it’s the toxic smoke, not the flames, that account for most fatalities. Simply closing your bedroom door each night before you go to sleep could save your life. If you can get out of the house safely, do so. But if you can’t, a closed bedroom door will block toxic smoke and reduce the temperature of that room by 900 degrees, giving you more time to escape through a window or for firefighters to arrive.

“It really does make a huge difference in the event of a fire. It buys you a lot of time,” Andy says.

To learn more about the national Close Before You Doze safety campaign, including a video that you can watch with your children, click here.

Take additional precautions
Prepare your family for an emergency by having working smoke detectors in each bedroom, in the hallways, the kitchen and all living spaces. Carbon monoxide detectors are also recommended on every level of your home with sleeping areas. And make sure all family members, who are physically capable, know how to call for help.

“As soon as your child can recognize numbers, at 3 or 4-years-old, that’s the time to teach them to call 911,” says Dr. Pilar Bradshaw. “I’ve had multiple parents whose young child saved their life by knowing how to call 911 when their parent couldn’t.”

Create a fire escape plan that identifies two exits out of every room, and designate a meeting place outside the home, where everyone can be accounted for before firefighters arrive.

“Because that’s the first thing we’re going to ask: ‘Is everyone out of the home?’ And if you say ‘I don’t know,’ we’re going to switch gears on the tactics we to use to fight that fire, and we’re going to go into rescue mode,” Andy says.

Practice makes perfect
It’s recommended that you practice your family plan at least a couple of times a year. A great time to do it is when you change your smoke detector batteries in the spring and fall for Daylight Saving time. The smoke detector itself should be replaced every ten years.