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February 28, 2008
Planning and preparedness essential to safely escape residential fires
Escaping from a residential fire is more complex than one might imagine. Black, toxic smoke that can fill a room in seconds may hinder quick evacuation, especially if you are unfamiliar with the layout of a room, or if you begin to feel the effects of smoke inhalation.

Residents are encouraged to plan and practice an escape route to ensure family members can safely exit their homes in the event of a fire. The following safety measures and tips will increase your odds of surviving a fire, regardless of what type of home you live in.

If your smoke or fire alarm rings, or you detect smoke:
  • Gather your family together. Ensure that children and elderly family members are accounted for.
  • Immediately head towards the nearest exit.
  • If the alarm sounds at night when everyone is sleeping, check your bedroom or apartment door with the back of your hand. If the door is hot to the touch, or if you see or smell smoke, it could mean that smoke and flames are on the other side of the door. In some cases, it may be safest to stay within your room or apartment. Block smoke from entering your room or apartment by shoving a blanket, wet towels, or articles of clothing tightly under the door. Remain calm, and call 9-1-1. Open window and balcony doors to allow fresh air to enter.
  • If your exit door is cool to the touch, and you cannot smell or see smoke seeping in around the door, it may be safe to exit. Carefully open the door and check the hallway before proceeding to the nearest exit. If you live in an apartment or condominium, use the stairwells.
  • As you exit your apartment, activate the fire alarm (if it is not yet activated), which is usually located near exit doors. This will notify other residents so they can evacuate as well.
  • If you encounter smoke at any point during the evacuation, get down on your hands and knees and crawl below the smoke where the air is safer to breathe. Encountering smoke in the stairwell of an apartment or condominium building means you should get out of the stairwell immediately via a crossover floor, and use a different stairwell.
  • When fire crews arrive on scene, be aware of any information they may communicate to you via the building’s voice communication system.

Once you are out of immediate danger:
  • Gather outdoors with your family at a pre-designated meeting spot to ensure everyone evacuated safely. If you live in an apartment or condominium building, do not gather in the lobby where firefighters will be setting up their entry control operations.
  • Call 9-1-1 from a cell phone, telephone booth, or a neighbour’s home.
  • Do not attempt to regain entry.
  • Remain at the scene for Toronto Fire Services to arrive so that you can update firefighters on the situation.

Plan and practice your escape plan:
  • Toronto Fire Services advises everyone to plan an escape route with your family, draw it out, and post it somewhere visible.
  • Practice this plan regularly, so that everyone is familiar with all possible escape routes, making sure that there are two ways out of every room in your home or apartment building.
  • A well planned escape can help you avoid confusion in a real fire situation.
  • In addition, installing smoke alarms on every level of your home helps provide valuable notification time to assist you and your family in escaping if a fire occurs.

For further information about planning an escape, or other fire safety issues, visit

To obtain a Plan Your Escape Kit to assist in developing a plan, please contact Access Toronto at 416-338-0338 to speak with a member of the Toronto Fire Services Fire Prevention Division.

Toronto is Canada’s largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people. It is the economic engine of Canada and one of the greenest and most creative cities in North America. In the past three years, Toronto has won more than 70 awards for quality, innovation and efficiency in delivering public services. Toronto’s government is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents.

Media contact:

Toronto Fire Services Media Hotline, 416-338-0763



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