SOUTHWEST LOUISIANA (KPLC) - In a fire, you may only have minutes to get out.
While safety is paramount, how many families have a fire escape plan. And how many actually practice it?
It's why Chief of Fire Prevention Caldwell Fontenot said it's crucial to have an escape plan - ahead of time.
"It's very important," said Fontenot.
But how many people really have a fire escape plan?
KPLC asked some Lake Charles residents.
I do not actually," said Brandon Myers.
KPLC also posed the question to Kenny Arlt.
"No, didn't even think about one moving in here. I kind of just thought - apartment building - it would naturally have that kind of setup," he said.
So how do you prepare?
"I think the best thing would be for parents or an adult to sit down and draw up a floor plan; have at least two exits: front door, back door, side door, possibly a window - if there's no other way out. We don't really encourage people to climb out of windows if they can help it - to have a meeting place and to practice," explained Fontenot.
While Fontenot said those are basic tips, what happens if you're in a two-story house? And a window is your only option?
"There are things you can use if you have to escape a second-story window, like a portable escape ladders," said Fontenot.
A 13-foot two-story fire escape ladder costs about $35 at Home Depot. Then, we put it to the test.
Myers and KPLC's Erica Bivens read through the three-step instructions.
Not too tough to execute; Bivens was able to safely climb down the ladder, although she encourages reading the instructions before an emergency.
"If you're gonna have one, know where it is. Can't use it if you can't find it," Myers added.
The ladder helps in a two-story house, but what about a multi-level apartment like Arlt's?
"It's technically the third floor, but it's the fourth floor because there's a mezzanine floor," he said.
While the same ladder was not really an option there, Fontenot said, "There's gonna be exit stairwells for you to use that lead directly outdoors. There's usually gonna be two per floor."
But despite all the planning and forward thinking, Fontenot said there's one thing you should always do.
"Smoke detectors are the best bet and you need to test them - test them often to make sure they work. Change the batteries twice a year," advised Fontenot.
Fontenot said combining working smoke detectors and having an escape plan could mean the difference between life and death.
"An escape plan really doesn't mean anything without a smoke detectors. I mean, we're gonna come but really your safety depends on you," he said.
A little preparation can provide peace of mind - priceless, especially in the time of an emergency.
Fontenot said parents should include their children when practicing fire escape plans.
For additional fire escape safety tips, click on our Web Extra in this story.