Every home must have a window escape plan for emergency situations. Whether you live in a single-family or multi-user dwelling, you should be prepared to evacuate when disaster strikes.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has a downloadable PDF on how to create an escape route. Your plan must always have two ways to get out of a room. Decide on a meeting place outside the property. Once you have this blueprint, brief each member of your household. Practice drills at least twice a year so everyone knows how to respond to an emergency. Having an escape plan can significantly improve your chances of survival in cases of fire, earthquake or flooding.
When to Use a Window as Escape Route
In just a few minutes, a small fire can cause the following:
- Create clouds of thick smoke
- Melt electrical wire
- Make things burst into flames (flashover)
- Trigger poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide and ammonia that can affect your eyes, nose, and throat
- Burn the lungs
When doors and hallways are not accessible, the only way to escape is through the window.
Window Escape Plan Tips
- Make sure that nothing prevents the windows from opening. Check the following:
- Exterior fasteners (clips, nails, or screws).
- If there is enough room for basement windows that open into a window well.
- That the window handle does not get in the way of the opening.
- Make sure that your windows easily open all the way.
- Fix any problems that are causing the windows to stick.
- Fix any broken parts.
- Make sure that the window opening is big enough for a person to go through.
- Make sure the window is not too high to reach. The sill must not be higher than 1.5 meters above the floor.
- Make sure that the basement window is easy to reach. You can place a stool, bench or piece of furniture below the window if it is too high.
- Make sure to teach children how to open the window, remove screens, and escape through.
- You might have family members who cannot escape through a window on their own. Sleep them on the first floor so it is easier to get them out.
- Windows that are complicated to open or have a hidden latch should not be used for escaping.
- Make sure that grilles, security bars and insect screens are easy to remove. You should be able to open them from the inside in just one step and without any tools.
- Practice escaping through a window during drills.
It is not recommended that you break a window during an emergency. You can cut yourself badly and bleed profusely as you crawl over broken glass.
Window Escape Plan for Fires
During a fire, smoke impairs your vision and causes disorientation. It also makes it difficult to breathe so it is important that you get out quickly.
Your window escape plan must include every bedroom and all possible exits. Plot two different routes that will get everyone from their bed to outside the house. If you have second-floor windows, make sure escape ladders are easily accessible.
Should You Break a Window if you’re Trapped?
Modern windows are very hard to break. Double glazed windows are designed to withstand shocks from sports balls, weather conditions, and breaking and entering.
Double glazing means there are two layers –if you break the first pane the second one remains intact. The gas between the panes also works as shock absorber so hitting it in the middle won’t work.
If you get caught in a situation that requires breaking a double glazed window, you have four options:
- Use a heavy object (preferably a hammer) wrapped with a blanket.
- Hit the window in the lower corner. If you hit it in the middle, the object may bounce back.
- If you create a hole in the first pane, smash through the hole to break the second pane.
- Activate the breakout device. Breakout units shatter double glazed windows at the press of a button. In the event of emergency, remove the safety pin and push the red button.
Window Escape Plan for Apartments and High-Rise Dwellings
Before a fire breaks out:
- Explore the building and identify possible exits through the laundry room, storage, or parking basement.
- Spot safety features such as smoke detectors, fire alarms, automatic sprinklers, and marked stairwell exits.
- Every floor has an evacuation plan. Study the illustration.
- Participate in building fire drills.
During a fire:
- Stay low and under the smoke as you crawl to the exit.
- Never jump from an upper floor window of a building. If you are exiting from a second story window, you could hang and drop feet-first to the ground.
- Go down the fire escape or through an enclosed fireproof stairwell to exit.
- Never use the elevator.
- Find your way to an adjacent porch or garage roof and wait for the fire department.
- If stairwells are filled with smoke, stay in your apartment – by the window – until rescue arrives.
- Wave a flashlight or white cloth outside the window to let firefighters know where you are.
The best way to survive an emergency is to plan ahead. If you make changes to your home design, make sure it is included in your window escape plan. In any event that you damage windows as you exit, call Glass King for a repair consult. Glass King is the most trusted glass repair and replacement service provider in Arizona!