A disturbing fact: Most house fires happen between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. Which means you're likely to be asleep, making it that much more important that you know how to save yourself and your family since you won't have much time to plan your escape.
If you notice smoke, drop to the floor and begin to crawl to the nearest exit. The smoke and heat will rise to the ceiling. With luck, you'll be able to stay where the air is cool and clear.
BEWARE OF HOT DOORS
And before you go opening doors, check for heat. The smart way to do this is to feel the top of the door with the back of your hand. You don't want to go burning your palm or your fingers — you could be needing them later in your escape, like for climbing down a ladder.
If the door is hot, don't open it. Doors can keep out smoke, even more so if you can put a blanket or clothing along the bottom. Head for the window. If you can't get out, find a way to signal your presence, say with a flashlight or white sheet.
If the door isn't hot, open it slowly. Obviously, if you see flames, close it quickly. If all seems clear, however, start crawling, making sure that you close any doors between you and where you think the fire might be.
GET A PLAN
Once you get out safely, stay out. Don't get any lame ideas about saving your high school yearbook.
If you have children you owe it to them and to yourself to work out an escape plan. Remember, chances are any fire will start while they're sleeping and you may not have the opportunity to tell them what to do. They need to know what to do, and they'll only know if they've practiced it. Plus, children, when they panic, look for places to hide, like a closet or under the bed. They need to know to get out of the house, and how to do it, by crawling to the nearest exit.
If a window is your only option, lower any children to the ground first. Kids might panic and not follow if you leave first. Once outside head to the meeting place that's the final piece of your escape plan, like a mailbox or the big tree in your yard. You want to make sure as soon as possible that everyone's safe.
Do the plan.