Creating an Apartment Safety Escape Plan

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During an emergency, it can be hard to figure out which exit to take or what to grab. Living in an apartment can make it even harder: there might be more than one exit to choose from, or perhaps you live on an upper floor. But you can reduce the potential for problems if you create a safety escape plan.

Diane Dobry, a New York City resident, has an emergency plan: “My son is a NYC fireman and whenever I rent an apartment in NYC he comes over and looks around and advises me on the best route and plan. I only have one door out of my apartment now and I have a fire extinguisher centrally located and a smoke detector in the bedroom, near the kitchen and by the front door.”

You don’t have to rely on your own safety plans if you aren’t sure of the details, even if you can’t call on one of your relatives’ expertise. Some fire departments offer advice on creating a plan and can provide special information if you need to make plans for a pet, or teach children about the steps they should take in an emergency. Contact your local fire department to see what services they offer.

Dobry also had to make a few contingency plans: “My last apartment had no fire escape, so he showed me which window to use as an exit and what to do in an emergency.” If you live on an upper floor in a building with no fire escapes, it’s especially important to plan ahead for an emergency. Depending on the distance to the ground, a rope ladder may provide you with an alternative means of escape to the door — it’s especially important if there’s a chance that the stairs might be blocked in the event of an emergency.

In addition to a rope ladder, there are a few other items that you should keep easily accessible in case of an emergency: a flashlight (with fresh batteries) is the most important. A jacket, especially during cold weather, is also important. It would be nice if we all had enough advance warning in an emergency to take our belongings with us, but that’s rare. If you can, take your keys and wallet with you — but always remember that your safety is more important than anything in your wallet.

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