Can a Window be a Safe Exit?
Both the NFPA and FEMA strongly advise that all rooms in your home should have two safe exits in case of an emergency evacuation. In the event that a fire blocks the door from being a safe exit, this could mean that exiting through a window is your safest option. This important point is illustrated in the FEMA video below:
Unfortunately, this has been proven time and time again. In a fire, having more than one way out can save your life. Below are just six examples from the last month where people were forced to exit or jump from their windows in a fire. In some of the cases, the person even suffered minor injuries due to the fall.
March 5/2015- Calgary, AB : A woman in Calgary was forced to jump from her second-story window to escape a fire in her home around midnight. She was taken to the hospital with minor injuries associated with the fall.
March 6/2015- Edgewood, MD: A family of five jumped from windows in their home to escape a an early morning fire. Neighbors were woken by the screams and encouraged the family to jump and one neighbor was even able to catch the children as they fell. All four children were taken to the hospital with minor injuries but have since been released.
March 14/2015- Indianapolis: A 22 year old man was upstairs when a fire started in his Indianapolis home. He was able to escape out a second floor window onto the roof of his porch. When firefighters arrived, they helped the man down from he porch and he was able to escape the flames unharmed.
March 16/2015- Madison, WI: A tenant in a Madison apartment building was able to escape from his window after the unit caught fire. He was helped to the ground by a bystander and was not hurt.
March 18/2015- Chicago, IL: A 3 year old Chicago girl was able to alert her mother of a fire in their home and the two escaped to safety out a bedroom window. When firefighters arrived, they had a difficult time extinguishing the flames as heavy smoke had spread throughout the home.
March 22/2015- New Orleans, LA: To escape a fire in his home, a New Orleans man jumped from his second floor window just before firefighters arrived. He was taken to the hospital with minor burns and small injuries associated with the fall.
As we can see, windows can be a crucial escape route in the unfortunate event of a fire. To this extent it is important to make sure that the windows are accessible and can open easily in an emergency. This can be problematic for windows with bars, especially those that are bolted in. While bars are certainly important to deter intruders, one can find window bars with locks that open from the inside which can be opened only with a key. The key to such a window lock can be kept in a secure location nearby, should it be needed in an emergency.
If the windows are on a second or third floor, having a fire escape ladder can be imperative for escaping a blaze. Such ladders can be hooked on and used safely and should be kept near one of the upstairs windows. The last thing you need is to have to search for the ladder in a real fire.
As we can see, windows can be a crucial escape route in the unfortunate event of a fire. To this extent it is important to make sure that the
In both cases, whether the window is on the first or second floor, it's important to establish a fire escape plan and practice at least twice a year. When practicing, involve all members of the household including kids. Remember, the point is not to frighten the children, but rather care should be taken to make sure they are informed and ready to put the plan into action should they ever need to.
For more fire escape planning visit the NFPA's page here.
Finally, in the event that you live in a multi-story building with windows higher than the third floor, exploring other rescue solutions could be essential to surviving a fire in a high-rise. Just because you live up high does not mean that your window cannot be a safe exit.