Window Safety And Fire Escape

By Robert Robillard on Home And Personal Safety

How will you get out if your primary exit is blocked by smoke or fire?

Is your house windows safe from child falls?

Window Fall Protection

Unfortunately I have been present shortly after a child fell out of a second story window.   I was there within minutes of this event and do not wish that experience on anyone.

The sad part is this tragic occurrence happens more than you think and is avoidable.  Fires and falls of all kinds are among

fire escape

The leading causes of injury and death in young children. Some falls occur from windows. 

Fire Escape

Window safety and fire escape plans are an integral part in fire escape situations.   Next to doors windows are our next best way to escape a house in a fire or other emergency.   Building codes have always specified window sizing and locations as a emergency means of egress.  

According to building codes every bedroom must have a secondary means of escape in case fire or smoke blocks the primary exit.   A window properly sized fits this requirement.  

So here lies the dilemma.  We want to have windows and screen components easily removable, without the use of tools or special knowledge in case of an emergency.  At the same time we want to prevent children from falling out of them.

A balanced approach to fire escape and window safety is always the best practice and can help you keep your kids safe as well as keep you safe in a fire. 

Here are some suggestions:

Window Safety and Fire Escape Plan:

Develop an emergency plan in the event of a fire.  

Discuss with your kids how to get out of the house with and without you.   

 This is a real discussion about escaping through windows.  Evaluate your home for the safest window to exit.  Often times this is a window above a lower porch roof. 

 Also part of this discussion is the fact that speed in exiting can be crucial as well as the fact that they may injure themselves.

The best plan is one that you practice and train for.  Research has shown that in times of stress or panic people often return to their training.

 Some houses with second or third floors may need an escape ladder.  I have a third floor bedroom in my house and I purchased a 25-foot escape ladder that hooks onto the window sill and interior wall.

 Screens DO NOT prevent children from falling out a window.

 Keeping windows closed and lock are a safe way to avoid falls.  That may not be realistic in warmer weather.    Try to open and use windows that are out of reach to small children.

 Avoid placing furniture or anything that a child can climb up to the window height  away from windows.

Window Guards 

 Window guards, bars or grills are an effective way to prevent falls but can also hamper an escape.   Industry standards and codes require that these devices have a tool free release mechanism.  Make sure you practice opening these guards ahead of time.

 Make sure everyone understands how the release mechanism works. Time is critical when escaping a fire. 

 Avoid nailing your windows shut or installing non-removable pins

 Never paint or nail windows shut. You must be able to open them to escape in an emergency.

Air Conditioners

Avoid placing an air conditioner in the safety or “best” window to exit.

 The air conditioning unit could block or impede your escape through the window.   Remember a room may have several windows but only one may provide a safer exit to the ground.  Exiting through this window may lessen the degree of injury by having soft material, such as; bushes, wood chips or lawn, underneath it.  

 Make sure you keep at least one window per bedroom unobstructed for an escape.

 Do Not Paint Windows shut.

 Make sure your windows open and can be opened by all family members if needed.

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About the author

Robert Robillard

Carpenter / Remodeler / Editor

Rob Robillard is “The Concord Carpenter” Rob is a builder, general contractor, carpenter, woodworker, and editor of Concord Carpenter and ToolBoxBuzz As a General Contractor and carpenter, Rob owns and operates Concord Carpenter LLC. A full-service remodeling and construction company. Rob is a recognized leader in home building best practices and a source for how-to information for building professionals. On this website, Rob covers all aspects of home construction, building science, home improvement, woodworking, remodeling, and some of the best product and tool reviews. Rob is in charge of our Tool and Product Review series - Concord Carpenter Videos where we post all of our tool reviews and video tutorials. Rob approaches remodeling and building construction with a pragmatic and problem-solving approach. He enjoys using his knowledge and experience to help and educate building professionals as well as DIYers on best practices in the construction and remodeling industry. He's a strong advocate for "raising the bar" in the construction trades and promoting the trades to youth. #BeAMentor #Green2Great Craftsmanship, quality, and pride guide his journey on this channel The Concord Carpenter's motto: "Well done is better than well said!" : Read more about Rob

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