Fire Safety Tips & Prevention

Make a Plan

Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to plan in advance: how you will contact one another; how you will get back together; and what you will do in different situations.

Family Emergency Plan

  • It may be easier to make long distance phone calls than to call across town, so an out of town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members.
  • Be sure every member of your family knows the phone number and has coins or a prepaid phone care to call the emergency contact.
  • You may have trouble getting through, or the telephone system may be down altogether, but be patient.

Emergency Information

Find out what kinds of disasters, both natural and man-made, are most likely to occur in your area and how you will be notified. Methods of getting your attention vary from community to community. One common method is to broadcast via emergency radio and TV broadcasts. You might hear a special siren, or get a telephone call, or emergency workers may go door to door.

Emergency Plans

You may also want to inquire about emergency plans at places where your family spends time: work, daycare, and school. If no plans exist, consider volunteering to help create one. Talk to your neighbors about how you can work together in the event of an emergency. You will be better prepared to safely reunite your family and loved ones during an emergency if you think ahead and communicate with others in advance.

Deciding to Stay or Go

Depending on your circumstances and the nature of the attack, the first important decision is whether you stay put or get away. You should understand and plan for both possibilities. Use common sense and available information, including what you are learning on this web page, to determine if there is immediate danger.

In an emergency, local authorities may or may not immediately be able to provide information on what is happening and what you should do. However, you should monitor TV and radio news reports for information or official instructions as they become available. If you are specifically told to evacuate or seek medical treatment, then do so immediately.

Staying Put

Whether you are at home, work or elsewhere, there may be situations when it is best to stay where you are and avoid any uncertainty outside.

There are other circumstances when staying put and creating a barrier between yourself and potentially contaminated air outside, a process known as "sealing the room," is a matter of survival. Use available information to assess the situation. If you see large amounts of debris in the air, or if local authorities say the air is badly contaminated, you may want to take this kind of action.


There may be conditions under which you will decide you need to evacuate, or there may be situations when you are ordered to leave. Plan how you will assemble your family and anticipate where you will go. Choose several destinations in different directions so you have options in an emergency.

  • Plan places where your family will meet, both within and outside of your immediate neighborhood.
  • If you have a car, keep a half tank of gas in it at all times in case you need to evacuate.
  • Become familiar with alternate routes and other means of transportation out of our area.
  • If you do not have a car, plan how you will leave if you have to.
  • Take your emergency supply kit unless you have reason to believe it has been contaminated.
  • Lock the door behind you.
  • Take your pets with you, but understand that only service animals may be permitted in public shelters. Plan how you will care for your pets in an emergency. 

If time allows:

  • Call or email the "out of state" contact in your family communications plan
  • Tell them where you are going
  • If there is damage to your home and you are instructed to do so, shut off water, gas and electricity before leaving
  • Leave a note telling others when you left and where you are going
  • Check with neighbors who may need a ride

At Work & School

Like individuals and families, schools, daycare providers, workplaces, neighborhoods and apartment buildings should all have site-specific emergency plans.

If you are an employer, make sure your workplace has a building evacuation plan that is regularly practiced.

  • Take a critical look at your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system to determine if it is secure or if it could feasibly be upgraded to better filter potential contaminants, and be sure you know how to turn it off if you need to.
  • Think about what to do if your employees can't go home.
  • Make sure you have appropriate supplies on hand.

Schools & Daycare

If you are a parent, or guardian or an elderly or disabled adult, make sure schools and daycare providers have emergency response plans.

  • Ask how they will communicate with families during a crisis
  • Ask if they store adequate food, water and other basic supplies
  • Find out if they are prepared to "shelter in place" if need be, and where they plan to go if they must get away

In a High Rise Building

  • Note where the closest emergency exit is
  • Be sure you know another way out in case your first choice is blocked
  • Take cover against a desk or table if things are falling
  • Move away from file cabinets, bookshelves or other things that might fall
  • Face away from windows and glass
  • Move away from exterior walls
  • Determine if you should stay put, "Shelter-in-place" or get away
  • Listen for and follow instructions
  • Take your emergency supply kit, unless there is reason to believe it has been contaminated
  • Do not use elevators
  • Stay to the right while going down stairwells to allow emergency workers to come up

In a Moving Vehicle

  • If there is an explosion or other factor that makes it difficult to control the vehicle, pull over, stop the car and set the parking brake
  • If the emergency could impact the physical stability of the roadway, avoid overpasses, bridges, power lines, signs and other hazards
  • If a power line falls on your car you are at risk of electrical shock, stay inside until a trained person removes the wire
  • Listen to the radio for information and instructions as they become available