Formulating Your Own Fire Escape Plan

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Knoxville (WVLT) -- The dangers are a little different when fire strikes an apartment or multi-story home.

If you happen to live in either, that means changing your fire escape plan.

But for many, that may be tougher than it sounds.

The rule to live by is to have more than one way out.

Some cities require all apartments or multi-family units to have more than one exit door.

Knoxville is not one of those cities; in fact their only requirement is that you have a window, about five and three-quarter square feet.

That can be large enough to squeeze out of, but if you are on a top floor, where do you go?

Think about it, how quickly could you get out, after waking up to a bedroom full of smoke.

“I don't think there'd be that much confusion, because there aren't that many people who live there,” said Mary Kauffman who lives in a second story apartment.

“I have stairs next to my room, so I'd probably take the stairs, but during drills, we usually take the elevator,” said Lindsay Dowd who lives on the 7th floor of a dorm.

Not exactly a true test as real smoke can run deeper and deeper from the top.

Every year the Knoxville Firefighters run 6,000 second graders through escape drills in a specially designed house in Safety City.

“We've got a little roof out there for the kids to get on and go right to our meeting place,” said Paul Trumpore from Knoxville Fire Prevention.

It even covers where to buy and put your emergency fire ladders for second floor escapes.

“Forty bucks could save a life,” said Stacey Croley from the Lowes on Chapman Highway.

“They even have them for the fifth floor,” said Trumpore, “it's a long way down, but its better than staying in there.”

For Dowd, on the seventh floor, the idea of a fire makes her want to know more about her escape plan.

“I've really got to investigate it, because I don't know how I'd get out there, other than that staircase,” she said.

An even bigger problem according to fire prevention officers is that a drill can be only so real.

Croley has three children.

“They practiced about two or three times,” she said. “I let each one of my kids go down the ladder.”

Experts suggest you let your kids practice a fire drill at home once every four months, that way it stays fresh in their minds.

Trumpore says drilling at odd times is good too.

But Mary Kauffman says so many UT students got sick of false alarms in her dorm last year that they started to blow them off.

“People just figured if it was actually for real, somebody would come up and say it's actually for real,” she said.

But by then, it's often too late.

Many if not most landlords, particularly in complexes, equip apartments with fire extinguishers, and sprinkler systems.

Escape plans, though are often left up to the tenant.

That's why firefighters say you should drill, till your way out becomes second nature or almost instinctive so that you don't fall victim to confusion, or panic.

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