The drastic increase in residential fires over the last couple of years has prompted many to reinforce their structure with fire-resistant materials and take fire safety seriously. Great job! If you have done this. However, despite your best efforts, there is still a slim chance of a fire starting in your home. Carelessness, inappropriate disposal of cigarette butt and ash, and a few other factors may result in a fire.
If you aren’t prepared, chances are you are going to panic, make poor choices, and waste the precious time you have to get out.
Let’s face it, life is uncertain. Unexpected and dangerous events like a fire or natural disaster can occur without any warning. If you are prepared, there is a huge possibility that you will survive. If you are not, you may not make it.
In this article, we are going to be looking at some potentially life-saving steps you should take if your building is on fire.
Steps to take during a building fire
Never ignore a fire alarm
As soon as you hear your fire alarm in your home ring, your first reaction should be to grab your keys, alert the people around you and get out as quickly as possible. Below are some things you should keep in mind while you are trying to get out.
Take prompt action
Since you only have a few minutes to get out of a burning building, it is important that you take quick action regardless of how you feel.
Seeing your home and precious properties burn before your eyes can be devastating and overwhelming, to say the least. Despite this, you need to man up and stay calm. When you are calm, you are likely going to make wise choices.
Don’t waste time
Don’t waste precious time getting dressed or looking for valuables. Keep in mind that your valuables can be replaced.
Don’t try to extinguish the fire
Even if you have a working fire extinguisher in your home, it is wise that you focus on getting out instead of putting out the flames. Only attempt to put out the flame if the fire is small and you know how to use a fire extinguisher.
Wake them up
You don’t have to go from room to room to wake everyone who may be asleep during the fire. Shout at the top of your voice- Everyone Get out! Fire! Fire!
Feel before you open
To get out of your home, you are likely going to have to go through some doors. Before opening any of them feel the doorknob with the back of your hand. If it feels warm, chances are, there may be a raging fire on the other side of the door. Keep it shut, and use another exit. To keep smoke from creeping in, stuff newspapers, towels, and clothing into any cracks and openings in the door.
Even if a door is cool, open it gradually and stand low, in case of smoke.
If heat and smoke come in
Quickly slam the door and stuff it with clothing, if heat and smoke come in, find an alternative route as quickly as possible.
If other escape routes in your house have been compromised and you have to use a window for your escape, be sure to close tightly the other doors and windows in the room. Ignore this, then embers and smoke may flood the room through the open windows and probably start a small fire.
Resist the urge to run while trying to get out as you may trip and fall. Instead, walk calmly to the closest exit.
Use the stairs
Don’t attempt to use the elevator in your building in the event of a fire, as it may not be available to occupants. Even if it is available, it is not wise to use it, as the fire may damage the mechanical and electrical component of the elevator. The best and safest course of action, therefore, is to use the stairs.
Most fire-related deaths are as a result of smoke and fumes inhalation. The best way to avoid smoke and other superheated gases are by staying low.
To confine the fire and prevent smoke and other deadly fumes from flooding every part of your home, you have to close the doors in your home.
Pull the fire alarm
If for some reason the fire alarm isn’t sounding, carefully pull the fire alarm on your way out of your home. If you don’t have a fire alarm installed in your home, then you should yell “FIRE” at the top of your voice as you leave.
Move to an open area
Flee to an open area a good distance away from your home. The area should be free from powerlines, roadways, trees, and other buildings. It is wise you pick a safe zone or an area that you and your family members will run to.
Steps to take if you are trapped
Be grateful if you are able to get out of a burning building safely. However, if you aren’t able to get out, perhaps because of the heat or smoke, then you should do the following.
Quickly close the doors between you and the fire. To prevent smoke and other dangerous fumes from entering the room you are in, seal cracks and openings with newspapers or towels.
If you have a phone with you, quickly dial 911, and tell them that you are trapped and need to be rescued. Do well to tell them your building address and room number. Stay on the phone with them until the firemen are able to enter your home.
Don’t break a glass window
If there is a glass window in the room you are in, don’t break it, unless it is absolutely necessary. The reason for this is that the smoke from outside may be drawn in. To get fresh air, open the window a few inches.
You may have to signal from a window to alert the authorities to your location. The best way to do this is to hang brightly colored bedsheet or cloth out of the window.
If caught in smoke
While trying to get out, there is a huge possibility that you might enter an area that is engulfed with smoke. If you can’t go back or find another exit, do the following.
Drop down and gradually crawl out. Don’t crawl on your belly, as toxic gasses might be present.
Hold your breath
The goal here is to hold your breath as long as possible. Breathe slowly through your nose using a cloth as a filter.
Keep your head down
Resist the urge to stand up, perhaps to see what is going on around. Instead, stay down and keep your head down and shut your eyes as often as possible.
If your cloth catches fire
If you notice that part of your clothing is on fire, don’t panic. Instead, quickly drop to the ground and cover your mouth and face to protect them from the flames and roll back and forth to put out the fire.
If you come across a small fire
If you encounter a small fire on your way out, you have two options. The first is to flee to safety and call the authorities. The second is to stand your ground and fight the fire with an extinguisher. If you have been trained to use an extinguisher and you are sure that you will be able to put out the flames, then you can pick the second option. However, if you know very little or nothing about a fire extinguisher and how they work, then you should pick the first option.
Even if you know how to use a fire extinguisher, you need to keep in mind that there is a slim possibility that you may not be able to put out the flames. Well, if that is the case, then you should flee to safety and alert the authorities.
How to use a fire extinguisher
Using a fire extinguisher isn’t rocket science. All you got to do is follow a couple of easy steps.
- Pull– This means removing the safety pin from the extinguisher handle
- Aim– Aim the opening, nozzle, horn or cone at the base of the flame
- Squeeze– Gradually squeeze the trigger handle to release the content of the extinguisher
Sweep – Gently sweep from side to side.
High rise buildings
If you live in a high rise building or skyscraper, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind while trying to get out in the event of a fire emergency.
Don’t take the elevator– while the elevator may be the fastest way down and out of the building, you need to keep in mind that it may not be working. Most elevators are designed to stop working when there is a fire alarm. The best and safest option, therefore, is to use the fire stairway.
Learn as much as you can about your building’s evacuation plan. Know where fire alarms are installed in your building and learn how to use them.
Public address system
Most high-rise buildings have a public address system, if yours have, listen carefully and follow all instructions to the letter.
If you can’t get out
Depending on the nature of the fire, it may be difficult or impossible for you to get out. Well, if that is the case, then you should go to a room with a window. Stay where rescuers can easily see you and wave a brightly colored cloth to attract their attention.
Keep calm and be patient, knowing that it may take a while for the men of the fire department to get to your location.
Steps to take when you are out
Do the following if you are able to get out of the burning building.
Run to the safe zone or assemble area you and your loved ones have picked, way in advance. If possible, remain there until you are instructed by the fire department that you can re-enter your building. If you haven’t designated a safe zone or assembly point, then you should maintain a good distance away from the building, so that you don’t get in the way of emergency personnel trying to do their job.
Call the authorities
If weren’t able to call the authorities while trying to get out, do so when you are far away from the location of the fire. Tell them about the location of the fire and the nature of the fire.
Do a head count to see if anybody is missing. If anybody is missing, tell the firemen or first responders as soon as they arrive. Also, tell the firemen if everybody is accounted so that they don’t risk their lives going inside the building.
Do injury assessment
Before the authorities arrive at your home to put out the fire, carefully check yourself and your loved ones to see if they are injured. If they are, do what you can to keep them stable and wait until the authorities arrive. Alternatively, you can call and ask for directions.
Getting out of a burning building is no walk in the park as you will have to deal with deadly smoke, fumes, and heat while navigating your way out. While nobody prays for a fire incident to occur, it is a good idea to prepare for them. Preparation means installing a smoke alarm, having a comprehensive fire safety plan, carrying out fire drills, and knowing what to do if you aren’t able to get out.
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