First responders: Creating fire escape plan specifically for you - KPTV - FOX 12

First responders: Creating fire escape plan specifically for your home is critical

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Carrie Pabst and her children going over their escape plan. (KPTV) Carrie Pabst and her children going over their escape plan. (KPTV)

A series of devastating fires across Oregon and Washington state this winter are alarming examples of how quickly flames can destroy an entire home. In some cases, claiming lives.

First responders say the ability to escape a sudden fire unharmed may all hinge on developing an escape plan that's designed specifically for your home.

It takes only seconds for flames to spread from one room to the next in a sudden fire, leaving just minutes to get out of harm's way.

Terrifying scenarios, that are now prompting the Pabst family to act.

The Tualatin family is now preparing for the unimaginable, by mapping out different ways to escape from their two-story house in the event of a fire.

"It's terrifying to think about, but there's peace of mind knowing we have a plan now," said mom Carrie Pabst. "I know with my children and most children, we also need to make sure we refresh the plan after a while to make sure it's remembered."

Fire crews say creating an escape plan is critical.

"The main reason we emphasize creating a plan like this, is because when the moment happens, it's going to be a panic situation," said Portland Fire Lt. Rich Chatman.

Chatman tells FOX 12 that plan begins with checking to make sure all smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are installed and working in every hallway and room. Fire extinguishers should also be in any room where there could be an open flame. 

"The fire extinguisher is also an item that needs to be serviced every year to make sure it's functioning," said Chatman.

Fire crews say each room in the house needs not just one, but two different escape routes just in case the other is suddenly blocked by fire.

It's also critical, Chatman says, to keep all bedroom doors closed at night. That door acts as an added layer of protection from a potential fire burning down the hall.

"Naturally, the main way out of any room would be the door," said Chatman. "But, before you open that door, you need to feel it for heat. If the door is cool, then you're probably safe to open it and leave. If the door is hot and you can see smoke coming through, then you need to keep it closed and you're going to need to find another way out."

That other way out is most often a window. Fire crews say a collapsible ladder is an important tool to keep in every second story room for that reason.

But, beyond just storing a ladder there, Chatman says families should practice using it.

"You need to know your house and you need to know it well," said Chatman. "You need to know your house so well that you can know it without being able to see. That's one of the biggest problems you have in a fire is that you can't see. So, you need to make sure your equipment is in place, your plan is in place and make sure you practice it."

In practicing their own plan, the Pabst family says they discovered some of their upstairs windows won't open, because of old child safety locks.

Now, they know and can plan ahead.

"I think it's one of those things where, hopefully we don't ever have to use this plan, I think families think it's so far off the Richter scale that they don't think it's something they need. But, this is a relief for us, it provides peace of mind if something were to happen," said Pabst.

If you live an apartment complex, or any building that shares walls with another residence, Portland Fire says the landlord should have a plan in place that is posted in plain sight for all tenants.

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