Know your two ways out

Quincy firefighters tested their escape with a First Alert escape ladder out their station's upper level window.

When a fire erupts in your home, your basic instinct is to get out through the front door. But often times, that way out is blocked.

That's why fire department across the country are spreading the message to know two ways out.

"In the 1970s, it was estimated through research that the average person had about 17 minutes from the start of the fire to get out of their house. With the synthetics in the houses now, we're looking at three minutes," Jerry Mast, a firefighter with the Quincy Fire Department, said.

If you can't get out through a door, Mast says your best bet is through a window with an escape ladder.

"They are reusable, so you can practice with them," Mast said.

Quincy firefighters tested their escape with a First Alert escape ladder out their station's upper level window. Just hook the ladder onto a window sill and slowly climb out.

"We've even had a fatality, where the female was sitting two feet away from the window, but it was a straight drop down, she had no room to climb out. If they had a ladder in that instance, she could have climbed out and gotten to safety," Quincy firefighter Jerry Smith said.

"If they can't go out the window and it's a flat drop off, we teach them to shelter in place," Smith said.

Smith says if you're not sure whether to leave the room you're in, test the heat of the door with the back of your hand. And don't just feel for heat in one spot.

"It may be cool down by the floor, but it may be warmer as you travel up, because the heat and smoke rises and will gradually work its way down," Smith said.

If hot, you'll want to find the nearest towel or blanket and seal the space under the door to keep the smoke out. Then it's time to make some noise which will alert the fire crews to where you are.

"When they hear us coming down the hallway or up the steps toward their room, we don't want them to hide," Smith said.

Above all, you should always have working smoke alarms.

"We ask that you find a meeting place that everybody can go to that is permanent. It's not the neighbor's car, but maybe the neighbor's front porch and a place where there's a phone so you can call 911 when everybody's out and everybody's safe," Mast said.

This will prevent confusion and further danger when fire crews arrive on scene.

Smith says he's working to get more escape ladders into Quincy homes. He's asked local insurance agencies for donations so the department can buy ladders to hand out to families living on a second floor.