It's 3 a.m. and you awaken to smoke detectors beeping and smoke creeping into your bedroom. You hear your kids crying for you. You have three minutes to get out of your home. Do you and the rest of your family know what to do?

It’s 3 a.m. and you awaken to smoke detectors beeping and smoke creeping into your bedroom. You hear your kids crying for you. You have three minutes to get out of your home. Do you and the rest of your family know what to do?

Three minutes or less is all you may have to escape a fire in your home. The importance of planning ahead is crucial. Whether there are children in your home or not, develop an escape plan and meeting place with your household in case of a fire, and practice it.

Sit down with your children and draw a layout of the house, including two routes they would take out of each room, whether that be windows or doors. Ensure that all windows and doors included in the escape plan are operable and open easily. Keep these exits from being blocked. Escape ladders are an excellent investment for multiple story homes.

Encourage children not to jump out of windows. Teach them if they are unable to get out of a room in time, to open a window and throw items out of it to catch the firefighters’ attention. If a member of the household has mobility limitations, hearing loss or any other disability, assign someone to assist them during the fire drills and in the event of an emergency. NFPA.org provides in-depth fire escape plan examples, tips and a grid to draw your own escape plan.

Meeting places are necessary to ensure everyone safely made it out of the home. A meeting place is an outside spot, at a safe distance away from the home where all members of the household meet. A few ideal meeting places include a stop sign, mailbox or light post. Whatever spot your family decides on should be marked on the escape plan.

Once outside the home, do not go back in for anything or anyone. Instead, call 9-1-1 and proceed to your family’s meeting place.

It is good practice to keep doors closed to stop the spread of fire. Install smoke detectors on every level of the home and in every bedroom. Be sure to change the batteries every time there is a time change. NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm Code requires interconnected smoke alarms throughout a home, so that when one sounds, they all sound. Remember to practice your escape plan and meeting place at least twice a year, once at night and once during daylight. Know what to do if it happens to you.

For more fire safety information, visit Hannibalfire.com and watch the Hannibal Fire Dept Facebook page for fire prevention tips.