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CBS6 Investigates: How To Survive a House Fire

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY (WRGB) 20,000 people are injured in house fires every year, yet nearly 80% of American families don't have a fire escape plan.

Knowing what to do can be the difference between life and death, when every second counts.

CBS 6's Anne McCloy teamed up with the Saratoga Springs Fire Department to show you how to survive a house fire.

Fire doubles in size every 30 seconds, you only have two minutes to get out before smoke and flames consume the building. The toxic smoke can consume your body in seconds. Nearly 50 percent of people who die in house fires were trying to escape when they died.

“Being prepared it what it's all about,” said Assistant Fire Chief Peter Shaw.

Saratoga Springs firefighters staged a house fire for us, using theatrical smoke.

Anne exited the building as fast as she could, making common mistakes that can cost you your life in a real fire.

Capt. Aaron Dyer showed Anne what she did wrong.

By staying upright through the smoke, she put herself at risk of severe smoke inhalation.

“You want to stay low, because smoke is very toxic,” Dyer said.

Another problem, the bedroom door was left open. Leaving the door open when you sleep, allows smoke to come into your room.

“It's safer to have the bedroom door closed at night because it gives you another layer of protection,” Dyer said.

This is how to survive a house a fire. First, draw up a fire escape plan. Yours should have two escape routes for each person, on each floor, with a single meeting place outside.

Know how to check your bedroom door.

“If it feels cold then there’s no fire immediately outside the door, then it’s safe to open the door,” Dyer said.

Practice crawling out of your house.

“You want to get as low as you can, get right on the ground, and you're gonna crawl.”

Crawl backwards down the stairs.

“You're going to go feet first.”

CBS 6 cameras followed Anne as she put her fire escape plan to the test. After practicing how to escape, she was able to make it out in one minute and 15 seconds. It was 30 seconds faster than she was able to escape without practice.

Capt. Dyer also showed Anne how to decide whether you should use your “Plan B” escape.

“If it's hot, there's fire on the other side of your door. It’s not safe for you to go out that way. “You can just pull your blanket off your bed, and just stuff it underneath the door

“If you can't get out of your bedroom, you should get to a window and wave something outside so firefighters can find you, yell and throw things to make yourself visible.

This move prevents firefighters from having to enter the home.

“Not knowing where a victim is, we're going to have to do a systematic search of the building. Knowing that you're right there at that window, that your still with us, we can get the resources to you,” said Shaw.

Before you draw up your fire escape plan, make a schedule to check your smoke alarms once a month.

If your smoke alarms aren't working, you may never get a chance to put your plan in place.

59 percent of people who die in house fires either don't have working smoke alarms, or don't have them at all.

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