If you woke up at 3 a.m. and your house was on fire, how much time do you think you would have to get out safely?

According to the National Fire Protection Association, a nonprofit organization, one-third of American households estimated having at least six minutes to get out of their home before the fire became life threatening.

Unfortunately the time available is often less than six minutes, which is why Fort Belvoir Fire and Emergency Services is teaming up with NFPA during Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 7-13, 2012.

This year's theme is "Have Two Ways Out" which focuses on the importance of having two escape routes from your home in the event of a fire.

"Every bedroom has two ways out, the bedroom door and window," said John Weaver, FES fire marshal. "We encourage people to sleep with the bedroom doors closed because it slows the smoke and fire from coming into the room. So, if you can't get out to the hallway, you know you have the bedroom window to go out of."

For those who live on the second or third floor of an apartment complex or higher, make sure you have an escape ladder. Escape ladders can be found at your local hardware store, and make sure to measure the distance from your window to the ground.

"You don't want to buy a ladder and come up 20 feet short," said Weaver.

In 2011, U.S. fire departments responded to more than 1.3 million fires, according to the NFPA. These fires resulted in more than 3,000 civilian fire fatalities, and 17,500 civilian fire injuries along with an estimated $11 billion in direct property loss. Home fires caused 84 percent of civilian fire deaths.

This is why NFPA and FES are stressing having multiple escape routes from your home.

"Focus on the importance of fire escape planning and practice," said Paul Davis, president of Paul Davis Restoration and Remodeling, who is participating in this year's Fire Prevention Week. "Most important, have two ways out of every room through windows and doors. A fire escape or ladder from window exits is imperative."

According to Weaver, only one-third of Americans have both developed and practiced a home fire escape plan, and of the three-quarters of Americans who have an escape plan, less than half have practiced their plan.

Weaver suggests Belvoir residents make a map of their home and mark a door and window that can be used to get out of each room. He said choose a meeting place outside, in front of the home, and draw a picture of the meeting place on the escape plan.

Weaver also said Families should sound their smoke alarm and practice their escape drill twice a year while living in a home.

"We want to ensure that our residents know what to do if a fire breaks out in their home," said Weaver. "It is crucial they take steps to prepare their Family for the potential of a home fire by having an escape plan and practicing it."

FES personnel will visit all of the installation Child Development Centers and the elementary school, and will conduct random fire drills in office buildings.

"They'll show them the fire trucks and the stop, drop and role protocol in case you catch on fire," said Weaver. "It makes it easier for us to go to them and show them to not be afraid of the fire department. We're their friends, and we want them to come to us in the event of an emergency."

With winter approaching, Weaver wants residents to check their home heating equipment to make sure it is clean and working properly. Heating equipment was the leading cause of reported home fires in the 1980s and has generally ranked second since then.

"Make sure you change your filters monthly," said Weaver. "Have a professional come in and make sure the system is working properly and the heat exchange is working properly. If you have a poor heat exchange, then you will have carbon monoxide come into the home."

For more information on fire prevention week, contact John Weaver, FES fire marshal at (703) 805-2091.

Page last updated Fri October 12th, 2012 at 11:30