Smoke detectors are an important part of keeping your home safe, but they aren't always enough to save your life. Start your summer with a fire drill and practice run of escape routes to improve your family's safety IQ.

The checklist

A quick checklist can help you remember the things to plan and practice each year. We've included an easy one for you to use, and there's room to add an item or two that may be unique to your home.

smoke detectorSmoke detectors

You should have at least one smoke detector on each floor of your home. The United States Fire Administration also recommends installing smoke alarms in any bedrooms in which you sleep with the door closed. Except for actually installing the smoke alarms, the most important thing you can do is check them regularly to make sure they are still operating — specifically that the batteries are working!

Exit routes

Walk around your home and determine two exit routes from each room, if possible. If you keep windows locked, do a quick lesson on how to unlock them in an emergency and open each window to demonstrate the process to your children. Something that seems automatic to adults can be baffling to a child who may never have pushed open a window. Obviously the first choice out of the room is the door but feel any door before you open it during a fire. Even if it is cool to the touch, open doors with care in case the fire is closer than you think.

Escape ladders

In homes with more than one level or windows that are high above the ground, you may tuck a rope ladder into a closet or two. When discussing escape routes with your children, talk calmly yet candidly about how — in an emergency — exiting through the window might be necessary, even without a ladder.

Meeting place

Designate a meeting place outside of the house, whether it's a neighbor's home, a mailbox on the corner or somewhere across the street. Have a plan for the pets, especially if they sleep in a different part of the house than the rest of the family. Remind children — and other adults — that once you are out of the house, you need to stay out. Even the most valuable objects in your home aren't worth your safety.

Practice time

When conducting a family fire drill, be sure to practice army crawling. "Stay low to the floor" might not be something that makes much sense to a child, but "slither like a snake" can help young kids visualize the way they need to move to stay below the toxic smoke a fire causes.

Minimize fear

Many community fire stations have open houses for families. Kids will love seeing the fire trucks, but taking a little time to tour the fire station can also help take some of the fear out of a fire emergency. Hearing the loudness of the sirens and seeing firemen in their full gear can be important for children. Their image of a firefighter may be a friendly person in a red hat, and full-protection gear, including breathing masks, can actually make helpers look a little frightening. Seeing them in a safe situation may help children from being additionally worried during an emergency.

allParenting Fire drill checklist

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