How to make an escape plan

You should have your escape route planned and everyone in your household should be familiar with it.

Do not delay your escape to save valuables or look for pets. Smoke from a fire is toxic and can leave you unconscious in just two or three breaths.

Plan your escape

Do you know how you would escape in an emergency?

You should also have two escape plan options, in case one of your escape routes is blocked. 

If your escape route is blocked or you’re trapped by fire

If you are on the ground floor - try to get out of the building:

  • Escape out of a window. Throw bedding or cushions to break your fall.
  • If you can’t open the window, use a heavy object to break it at the bottom corner. When you go through it, cover any sharp edges with clothing, a towel, or a blanket.
  • Once you are out, get well away from the building and call 999 if you haven’t already.  

If you can’t get out or are upstairs

Find a safe room – this is a room where you can wait for the fire and rescue service.

  • A safe room should have a window that opens, and at least one phone.
  • Get everyone into the safe room, close the door, and put bedding, cushions, or towels along the bottom to seal the gap.
  • Open the window for fresh air, and call for help.
  • Think now - which room might be best for this? You need a window that can be opened easily and if possible, has a phone for calling 999. We recommend you have a phone and torch in the bedroom when you go to bed, in case there is a fire.

1. Escaping a fire in your flat

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  • You should plan and practise escaping from your flat. 
  • The best way to escape is to take the normal way out – but don't use the lift if there is a fire.
  • Keep door keys where everyone you live with can find them easily.
  • Move as quickly but as safely as you can, and don’t stop to investigate or pick up valuables.
  • Close doors behind you to slow down the spread of fire and smoke.
  • Get out, stay out, call 999 as soon as you are safe to do so.

Fire or smoke inside your flat but your escape route is not clear?

If you can't use your planned escape route safely, it may be safer to find a ‘safe room’ in your flat and wait for the fire service to rescue you from there.

A safe room should be as far as possible from any fire or smoke (with a window if possible).

  • A safe room should have a window that opens, and a telephone.
  • Get everyone into the safe room, close the door, and put bedding, cushions, or towels along the bottom to seal the gap.
  • Open the window for fresh air and shout “HELP, FIRE”.
  • Call 999. Be ready to describe where you are in the building and the quickest way for firefighters to reach you.
  • Think now - which room might be best for this? If possible, you need a window that can be opened easily and has a phone for calling 999. We recommend you have a phone and torch in the bedroom when you go to bed, in case there is a fire.

2. What to do if there’s a fire outside your flat, but within your block or building

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Purpose-built blocks of flats or maisonettes are built to contain a fire within a flat for 60 minutes.

If your building has a ‘stay put’ policy:

  • close your windows and doors
  • call 999. Don’t assume someone else has made the call
  • follow your local news online or tune in to your local TV or radio
  • stay put unless advised by the fire service.

Why is it safe to 'stay put' in a fire?

It is often safer to ‘stay put’ (stay in your flat) unless your flat is being affected by fire or smoke. This is because the building is designed so that fire does not spread from where it starts. However, if you feel threatened by smoke or fire, get out and stay out.

When you stay put in your flat, you reduce the risk of entering a smoky corridor unnecessarily and potentially being overcome by smoke. Staying put also means firefighters can tackle the fire safely and quickly without being delayed by many residents evacuating down the stairways.

If the fire service needs to fully evacuate the building, they will knock on your door. Unnecessary evacuation can obstruct the fire service and delay them putting the fire out.

If the advice for your building is for full evacuation

When the alarm sounds:

  • leave your flat and close the doors behind you
  • move as quickly but as safely as you can, and don’t stop to investigate or pick up valuables
  • use the stairs to make your way out of the building - never use the lift
  • call 999 as soon as you are safe to do so - don’t assume someone else has made the call.

Fire safety in high-rise buildings

High-rise buildings will have fire safety measures in place.

Practise your escape plan

Once you have your escape plan, go through it and practise it with everyone who lives in your home. You could do this at the same time as you test your smoke alarms (at least once a month).

How to talk to children about fire safety and escape plans.

Read our fire safety advice for parents and guardians.

Do a bedtime check to keep you safer at night

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 from occurring through the night, it's important to check your home for fire hazards before you go to bed.

  • Close internal doors at night to stop a fire from spreading.
  • 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.