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Planning a safe escape

Preparing and practising a plan of action will help you act quickly if there's a fire in your home - it could even save your life.

Find out how to make an escape plan, including tips on making a bedtime fire safety check. Escape plans will be different for different types of accommodation.

Escaping from a high-rise building

Living above the first floor doesn't necessarily make you any more at risk from fire. High-rise flats are built to be fire-proof - walls, ceilings and doors will hold back flames and smoke.

Most of your planning should be the same as homes at ground level, but there are some key differences:

  • You won't be able to use the lift if there's a fire, so choose an escape route that takes this into account
  • Count how many doors there are on the route to get to the stairs when you can't use the lift, in case you can't find your way
  • Make sure stairways and fire escapes are kept clear of all obstructions and that fire doors are never locked
  • Regularly check that you can open the doors to stairways or escapes from both sides
  • Make sure emergency lighting and signs are effective

If there's a fire elsewhere in the building, you are usually safest in your own flat, unless heat or smoke is affecting you. If you are affected, you should get out, stay out and call 999.

Make an escape plan

When you make an escape plan, involve everyone who lives in your home,  including children, older or disabled people and any lodgers.

Choosing an escape route

Here are some tips to help plan your escape from fire:              

  • the best escape route is often the normal way in and out of your home
  • think of any difficulties you may have getting out, eg at night you may need to have a torch to light your way
  • choose a second escape route, in case the first one is blocked
  • keep all exits clear of obstructions, like bicycles
  • if there are children, older or disabled people or pets, plan how you will get them out

Think about a safe place to go if you can't escape

If you can't escape, you'll need to find a room to take refuge in. This is especially important if you have difficulty moving around or going downstairs on your own.

If you can't get out, get everyone into one room:

  • choose a room with a window
  • if you can put cushions, towels or bedding at the bottom of the door to block smoke
  • open the window and call for help
  • think about which room might be best for this - you need a window that can be opened and, if possible, a phone for calling 999

Make sure everyone knows where door and window keys are kept

Decide where the keys to doors and windows should be kept and always keep them there. Make sure everyone in your household knows where they are.

Explain the plan

Once you have made your plan, go through it with everyone in the household.

You could also:

  • put a reminder of what to do in a fire somewhere where it will be seen regularly, like on the fridge door
  • put your address by the phone so that children can read it out to the emergency services

Practise the plan

Make sure you have 'walked through' the plan with everyone in your household. Regularly remind everyone of what to do, and what not to do, in the event of a fire.

Do a bedtime check - develop the habit

When you are asleep, it takes longer to notice the signs of a fire. If you don't have a working smoke alarm, there will be nothing to wake you.

To help prevent fires occurring through the night, it's important to check your home for fire hazards before you go to bed. Make sure you:

  • check the cooker is turned off
  • turn off and unplug electrical appliances (unless they are meant to be left on, like your freezer)
  • put candles and cigarettes out properly
  • turn heaters off and put up fireguards
  • make sure exits are kept clear
  • close inside doors at night to stop a fire from spreading


We will always recommend that you get out, stay out and call the fire service out as quickly as possible; we also acknowledge that it's easier said than done when a cherished pet is involved.

If you have pets consider the following in your escape plan.

  • Leave the property by the quickest and safest means possible, collect your pet on the way, providing it's practical to do so, won't cause a delay and won't hamper your exit.
  • If you leave your pet, inform the firefighters of its last known location and its favourite hiding place, they will ensure your pet is treated as a priority.
  • Keep collars and leads near your front or back door (whichever you use more frequently or even at both).
  • On your way out, leave a door open and call the pet's name, with luck, it will hear you and head for your voice.
  •  Never re-enter a burning building, it may result in you and your pet requiring rescue.
  • Keep caged animals near an external door or window to allow easy access for the firefighters.
  •  Animals have a natural fear of fire and will attempt to get away through an open door, window or pet flap.

Houses of Multiple Occupancy

Living above the first floor doesn't make you any more at risk from fire. Houses that have been professionally converted are built to be fireproof, walls, ceilings and doors will hold back flames and smoke.

Your escape plan

  • This should be the easiest way out but you will not be able to use the lift
  • Make sure everyone knows where the stairs are
  • It's easy to get confused in the dark, count how many doors you need to go through

Keep escape routes clear

  • Check there aren't any boxes, rubbish or anything flammable in corridors or stairways
  • Make sure doors to stairways and fire escapes aren't locked

Keep your guests safe from fire

Your family or housemates may be familiar with your house or flat, but your guests may not be. If you have guests staying overnight:

  • tell them where the keys are kept
  • give them information about anything in the house they may not be familiar with, like how to unlock your front door

It's particularly important to provide some fire safety information if you are hosting a party and people are drinking alcohol. Also, the risk of fire during celebrations may be higher from candles, cooking and cigarettes.

Additional information