Detect, Escape and Survive
Not a Drill
When It's Not a Drill
If a fire breaks out in your home, your first response may be to dart through the smoke and flames to escape. However, doing so increases your risk of igniting your clothing or becoming overwhelmed by smoke, causing injury and possibly death.
The key in any fire emergency is to remain calm. These guidelines will help you make sound decisions as you follow your escape route, if you come in contact with smoke or flames, or if you consider trying to fight the fire.
Use Your Escape Route
1. Feel for Heat Before Opening Doors
Opening doors without first checking them for heat can cause smoke and flames from the fire to rush into a room, overwhelming you in seconds. Before opening a door along your escape route:
- Use the back of your hand to feel for heat on the door, knob and space between the door and frame.
- If the door is warm, do not open it; use an alternate escape route.
2. Exiting Through Smoke
If you encounter smoke in your escape, use an alternate route. If you must exit through smoke, crawl on your hands and knees. There is a temporary zone of breathable air about 1 to 2 feet above the floor.
3. Escaping from Upper Levels
If your primary exit is impassable, and your secondary exit is above the first floor, do not drop to the ground. Try to climb down an escape ladder, balcony, porch, tree, or garage.
If you cannot escape,
- Shut the door to the room.
- Prevent smoke from entering the room by using duct tape, towels or clothes to seal cracks above, around and under the door.
- Open the window a few inches at the top and bottom to allow fresh air in at the bottom and smoke out at the top. Shut the window tightly if the airflow begins to draw smoke into the room.
- If the room has a phone, call the fire department and tell the dispatcher which room you are in.
- Wait at the window and wave a flashlight or light-colored cloth to help firefighters find you.
If Clothing Catches Fire
If your clothing catches fire, don't run. The air rushing by you can fan the fire and cause it to spread quickly. Instead:
- Drop to the ground.
- Cover your face with your hands.
- Roll back and forth to smother the flames. If someone else's clothes catch fire, and he or she is unable to stop, drop and roll, then throw a heavy blanket or rug over the person to put out the flames.
If you or a family member use a wheelchair or are unable to stop, drop and roll, plan ahead by mounting a small personal-use fire extinguisher in an accessible place and keeping a flame resistant blanket nearby to smother flames.
Fight Fire Only if You Know How
Use a portable fire extinguisher to put out a small fire only if you know when and how to use one properly. Fires spread very quickly, so if you are unsure about your ability to operate an extinguisher, don't guess. Get out and call for help. Property can be replaced, but lives cannot.
1. Choose the Right Model
First, you must be sure that you have the right extinguisher for the type of fire likely to occur in your home.
Extinguishers are labeled with standard symbols or letters for the classes of fire they can put out:
A - Paper, wood and ordinary combustibles.
B - Flammable liquids.
C - Energized electrical equipment.
An extinguisher labeled A:B:C can be used on all three classes of fire.
2. Maintain It
- Periodically review the manufacturer's operating instructions.
- Check the expiration date(s) of all extinguishers in your home.
3. Know When to Use Extinguishers
If you are highly confident that you can operate one safely, then use an extinguisher only if:
- The fire is small and confined.
- Family members and visitors have been evacuated.
- The fire department has been called.
- You have a clear escape route.
4. Remember PASS
Pull the pin and release the locking mechanism.
Aim the extinguisher nozzle at the base of the fire.
Squeeze the discharge lever slowly and evenly.
Sweep the nozzle from side to side.
Sprinklers Offer Added Protection
A recent study estimates that home fire deaths could be reduced by 82% in single-family homes equipped with automatic sprinkler systems and smoke alarms. Many people believe that home sprinkler systems are costly, messy and unattractive. This is not the case. Modern sprinkler systems:
- Discharge water only in the immediate area of the fire.
- Can put out most home fires before the fire department arrives.
- Are unobtrusive.
- Add only 1 to 1.5% to the total building costs for new construction.
- May earn you an insurance premium discount.
If you are renovating or building a home, consider installing automatic fire sprinklers to protect your family and your property.
The key in any fire emergency is to remain calm.