Although house fires and other home emergencies are relatively rare, you want to feel confident you and your family can escape unharmed should the unthinkable happen. Fire spreads more quickly than you might think. Therefore you need a home safety plan and an assessment to see whether your home needs more egress windows to allow escape from all levels of the house.
While your home might be up to building code, there are further precautions you can take to make it easier for everyone to get out in a hurry. Here are the most important elements of a home safety plan, to make sure you are prepared for any emergency.
What Are Egress Windows?
First, let’s explain what egress windows are. Egress windows are designed not only as a window but also as an emergency exit. They need to open easily and stay open on their own while being large enough for a large adult to exit through them.
Can Any Window Be Used As An Egress Window?
No. First, egress windows must be no more than 1.5m above the floor so anyone can easily reach them without the need for assistance. As well, to qualify as an egress window, it must meet certain standards, including:
- The windows need to provide an unobstructed opening at least 0.35 m2 (3.77 sq. ft) in area with no dimension less than 380 mm (15 inches)
- Windows have to remain open on their own without the need for additional support
- It must have measurements over 380 mm (15 inches) in width and height
- For basement windows with wells, the well must be at least 760 mm (about 30 inches) from the window for easy exit
- Window well openings must be over 760 mm (about 30 inches) deep
- Windows must be about 1118 mm (44 inches) maximum sill height from the floor level
Casement and slider windows are typically used for egress windows. If you have security bars on your windows you must be able to open them easily from inside the home.
The Importance Of Converting Basement Windows Into Egress Windows
As mentioned, not all windows can be used as egress windows. In fact, if you take a look at the basement windows in many older homes, chances are it would be impossible for most people, other than very small children, to fit through the window opening. All households should consider the size of the windows in their home safety plan, as well as their placement. Each room should be easily escapable either via a direct exit through a door to the outside or via a window. If windows are too high, too small, or don’t open, then you could be at risk should a fire occur.
Many homeowners convert their basement windows into egress windows to ensure their family is safe. In some cases, if the window location is safe and the size is appropriate, a new customized egress window that opens can be installed. However, most of the time it will involve concrete cutting to increase the size of existing window openings.
Where Are Egress Windows Required?
Egress windows are required in every bedroom in the house, as well as wherever there is “habitable space”. So even if you have an unfinished basement, but there is a bathroom or one finished bedroom, those rooms require an egress window.
How To Create A Home Safety Plan For Escape
Your entire family should be aware of your household escape plan. Here’s how to create an effective home safety plan to help everyone escape safely in an emergency:
- Walk the home and make sure every room has a direct safe escape to outside.
- Draw a floorplan showing where each escape is located for each room.
- Make sure each room has two possible escapes including a window, and then a possible escape through a door to reach another safe exit in the house.
- Check every window and door you assign as an exit and make sure they work, that they meet the “no higher than 1.5m above the floor” rule and that everyone in the household can fit through them.
- Any rooms that don’t have a safe exit should be adapted as soon as possible with an egress window. Call for quotes from an egress window expert and schedule installation.
- Choose a location outside the home where everyone will meet during an emergency once they escape.
- Consider providing escape ladders in each upstairs room so people can escape to the ground level more easily.
These are the basics to create your home safety plan for escape.
Escaping From The Home
Your home safety plan should also include details of how to reduce the risk of fire spreading, and to make sure everyone knows what to do. Some tips would include:
- Close doors as you leave a room to reduce smoke from spreading.
- If there are infants, older adults, or family members (or pets) with mobility limitations, assign the logical family member to ensure they escape safely and a backup person in case the assistant is not home.
- If you have guests, let them know about your home safety plan.
- Don’t ignore fire alarms when they go off. Check what is causing it to ensure people understand if there is an emergency.
Make sure everyone understands the home safety plan for escape, and have tests often.
Households With Kids
While fire safety is important, you also don’t want to frighten children by being too aggressive or obsessive with your plan. Children should be involved and understand the process, but you don’t want to wake them in the middle of the night shouting “fire!” to see if they know what to do. If you do plan to have a fire drill, warn kids first so they know it is not a real fire.
You also have to make sure your kids will wake if an alarm goes off. Test the alarm near the end of nap time so you don’t startle or scare them, but still can see if they wake up. If they don’t you might need a new alarm, or you will have to ensure someone wakes them up quickly if there is a real fire.
These home safety plan tips will help keep you safe in a real emergency. If you would like a quote on egress window installation click here.