Escaping a Fire

Never intentionally start a fire.

Be Prepared

  • Review this material often.
  • Go over it with your entire family and determine an escape plan for your family to follow.
  • Run drills to make sure everyone understands what to do if a fire were to occur.
  • Practice knocking on walls to find hollow sounding areas where there are no wooden struts. Make sure you and your family members agree on the sound you are looking for. These are areas most easy to kick through if you are trapped inside a room with no safe way out.

When a fire occurs, exit the building immediately.

Do not waste any time saving property. A small flame can get completely out of control and turn into a major fire in less than 30 seconds. It only takes minutes for a house to fill with thick black smoke and become engulfed in flames. Once it is, you will have to navigate out of the building without any visibility. Immediately take the safest exit route (the least fire or smoke).

If you must escape through smoke,

  • Place a wet wash cloth over your nose and mouth and a wet towel over your head.
  • Crawl low, underneath the smoke. The smoke contains toxic gases that can disorient you or even render you unconscious, which could be deadly.

Never Open Doors That Are Hot To The Touch
When you come to a closed door,

  • Use the back of your hand to feel the top of the door, the doorknob, and the crack between the door and door frame to make sure that fire is not on the other side.
  • If it feels hot, use a different escape route. (Every room in a building should have at least two fire escape routes.)
  • If the door feels cool, press your shoulder against the door and open it carefully and slowly. If heat and smoke come in, slam the door and make sure it is securely closed, then use your alternate escape route.

If the door is hot and there is no other escape route,

  • Soak towels, wash cloths, curtains or bed sheets and wedge them in the crack under the door to keep the smoke out of the room.
  • Turn off fans and air conditioners as they can draw smoke and fire toward the room.
  • Open as many windows as you can. Break them if necessary.
  • Wet a curtain or sheet. Wedge one end of it into the top of a window facing the street if possible, and let it hang around you as you yell and signal out the window. Use a sheet or towel for signaling.

If your situation becomes critical,

  • Try kicking through the closet wall into the next room. Feel the wall to make sure it isn't hot. Knock on the wall to find a hollow sounding area. Kick through the two layers of dry wall to create a breathing hole or exit.
  • As a last resort, use square knots to tie bed sheets together and climb to a balcony below. Only climb down one floor. Do not jump from more than two stories, or you will likely be killed.

Meet at a designated place outside.

The designated meeting location should be away from the building, but not necessarily across the street. Example: under a specific tree, at the end of the driveway or front sidewalk.

Take attendance. Then send one person to call 911. You want to make sure no one including firemen will be sent in to look for someone who's already outside and safe. This is why it's important to meet with the group. Once you've checked in at the meeting place, someone should be chosen to notify the fire department using 911.

The Top Three Causes of Fire on college campuses

  1. Cooking
  2. Careless smoking
  3. Arson

Alcohol and Fire
Alcohol impedes good judgment, coordination and evacuation procedures. More than 50% of adult fire fatalities involve victims under the influence of alcohol. On college campuses the link between alcohol and fire fatalities is even more apparent.

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

Carbon monoxide is a deadly invisible odorless gas produced by burning any fuel, including natural gas, petroleum, kerosene, oil, coal and wood. This gas is impossible to detect by sight or smell and can reach deadly levels very quickly.

Never operate gas-powered engines or generators in an enclosed space such as the garage. This includes any gas powered yard equipment, cars, motorcycles, motors, etc. Fuel burning appliances include furnaces, stoves, fireplaces, clothes dryers, water heaters, and space heaters. When these appliances are working correctly, they expel CO to the outside of the house through an exhaust pipe. However, if they do malfunction, they could release deadly carbon monoxide into the house. For this reason CO detectors should be placed throughout every house.

Initial symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to the flu, and include...

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

undetected CO can reach high levels very quickly causing...

  • Fainting
  • Unconsciousness
  • Death

Carbon monoxide can be released during the night causing entire families to die in their sleep, so make sure your house contains CO detectors. CO is just one of many toxic fumes present during a fire, emphasizing the importance of an immediate exit from the building.

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