This article will tell you the essentials of what to do and what NOT to do if you become the victim of a working structure fire. Many people make simple mistakes that can essentially cost them their lives in such a predicament. This information is essential for not only adults, but children as well – so teach these life saving basics to young ones as well.
“According to a survey conducted in 2005 by the National Fire Protection Association, it is estimated that 3,675 die from fire in the United States, of that total, 96% die in home or highway vehicle fires – the equivalent of one person every 143 minutes. As always, home fires accounted for the most fire deaths – 82% died in home fires in 2005. ” (Polyurethane.org)
Fires are burning hotter than ever when it comes to structure fires. This is due to a variation of factors including the composition of household building materials and synthetic materials included in furniture and other items contained within the house. Such synthetics in furniture include polyurethane – a very combustible material that burns very hot due to their composition. When set on fire such materials will emit a thick, black smoke.
So what do you NOT do in a structure fire?
Many people (many children) will run for a closet or bathroom for safety in a fire when they’re scared. Tell your children that this is not a sufficient idea, as the smoke and fire can still easily reach them and they will suffocate. Many children get the false sense of security that the water in a bathtub or shower will keep them safe, but inform them that many fatalities occur from smoke inhalation rather than the fire itself.
Do not try to gather valuables. The most valuable thing that can be saved in a fire is life – so get yourself out rather than trying to grab that television, video games, or that lockbox containing documentation in the basement. Any tangible item can be replaced. You, however, cannot be.
Do not try to put the fire out a large fire yourself, always call the fire department. Of course if there is some burnt toast or a small fire from a fire pit, than grabbing a garden hose or whichever MAY be sufficient (judgment is dependent on a situational basis). However, if there is fire rolling around on the ceiling of your bedroom – get out and call the fire department. Combating such a fire is dangerous and unnecessary, and can lead to more bad than good. Even if you do put out the fire (or so you believe), there may be extensions of fire within the wall that can spead to other areas of the house without you realizing it. Your local fire department should have a tool known as a Thermal Imaging Camera (also commonly known as a “TIC”) that can check through walls for heat and unseen fire. So, if you think the fire is out, you may in for a pleasant surprise.
Do not leave doors open if you can. If you close the door (especially to the fire room) it cuts off a significant amount of oxygen to the fire, actually helping to diminishing it’s supply of oxyen – one of the basic elements of the fire tetrahedron. Fire neends oxygen to survive, so limiting it’s supplies could be essential.
So what SHOULD you do?
Learn more information about basic fire safety. Go to your local fire department for fire prevention and to learn about the essentials of fire and how to keep you and your family and property safe.
If you’re in the midst of a house fire stay as low to the ground as you can – heat and smoke rises, so this will help save you from breathing in smoke and harsh chemicals. Also, there may be limited visibility due to smoke banking down from the ceiling, so staying low will also increase your visibility.
If it’s completely dark (there’s a chance that a fire will knock out your electricity) stay calm. Many people will know the general layout of the building they’re staying in. But if not try to remember it. Stay low to the ground if there’s no visiblity, and try and get to a wall. The wall is your basic lifeline. Eventually, if you stay on the wall, there will be a door or a window, or some means of egress. Use your hands and feet to stay on the wall, and sweep your hands along the wall in search of a means of egress.
When you come to a door check it’s temperature with the back of your hand. This is a good indicator if there’s fire on the opposite side of the door. If you feel that the door is cool, open it – slowly. Although the door may be cool, there’s still the chance that fire may be somewhere on the other side. Opening the door slowly will help ensure that you limit the oxygen fed to the fire (if there is one) on the other side of the door. Also, it may also help impede the fire’s speed towards you since you would be opening a new venue of oxygen for the fire.
If you’re going down a set of stairs be especially careful. Stairwells in a house fire act as chimneys since smoke rises. As if you were on the floor, stay low while going down the stairs in a speedy, yet safe fashion. If there’s fire in the stairwell and you’re unable to make it down, find other ways of egress such as windows.
There are times when all of general means of egress are hindered by fire. If it comes to go to a room and close the door behind you. Find a window – you may need to jump. By this time the fire department may be on scene, and they can either set up a ladder for you to climb down or they may have a ladder truck so you can just hop into the bucket. If not, though, it is better to jump out of a window than suffocate. A broken leg is better than suffocation. So, as stated, go to the window and remove the screen (if applicable). Get into the window itself and try and let your body hang down from the window. This will decrease your fall by your height, which can be a substantial amount altogether. Once you’re on the ground level again try and get to a safe area.
Have a family meeting and designate a meeting spot such as the end of the driveway. This way you can get a head count and make sure that everyone is out ok, rather than being spread out and unknowing how is unaccounted for. If everyone is accounted for than the fire department may not have to conduct their searches, saving them time, trouble, and danger.
As stated before, go to your local fire department to learn more about fire safety and fire prevention. Always check your smoke detectors to ensure that they’re working properly, and try to keep fire extinguishers within the household. Also, a good idea is to keep a flashlight handy to increase your visibility. If you’re unable to call the fire department go to a neighbor’s house to utilize their phone.