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STATEWIDE — Are you prepared if a fire starts in your home?

The important first step is making sure you have a functioning fire alarm, said Rita Reith with the Indianapolis Fire Department.

“Smoke alarms are the first and easiest line of defense for a homeowner and a family to protect themselves.”

The next step is having a family evacuation plan, discussing where to meet outside of the house, and where all the exits are in the house.

Reith said it can be a simple dinner conversation that you later practice. She said if you have kids to practice your plan at least once a month until they get comfortable with it, which includes practicing it in the middle of the night at least once so you can learn how long it takes to get your kids up and moving.

Then you want to make sure that your kids know where the outside meeting place is.

“That family meeting place may be a tree across the street, it may be a neighbors house, it may be the stop sign at the corner,” Reith said. “Whatever you decide that is, talk about it, make sure everybody knows where it is, and then practice doing that.”

Michael Pruitt with the Bargersville Fire Department said to make sure you run multiple scenarios with your family, like if the kids happen to be home alone, or if you all are located in different parts of the house.

“How many times have we heard the smoke alarm go off in the home, and we assume that mom or dad has burnt something in the kitchen, and we just kind of brush it aside not thinking that it’s a fire,” he said. “If we treat it that way all the time whenever a real fire does occur in the home our response is going to be slow.”

He also said to sit down with your children and explain to them that accidents happen, and if they happen to accidentally start a fire that their life is more important than trying to hide it and not telling someone.

“Nobody really thinks that a fire is going to break out in their home,” said Reith. “Fire does not discriminate, it can occur at any time, and for a variety of reasons. It doesn’t have to be something anyone did.”

One of the most important things to remember, she said, is that once you’re out of your home, stay out.