Being able to utilise fire for heating and cooking is key to human survival. But so is remembering just how dangerous fire can be. Fire can devastate virtually everything in its path, can spread unbelievably fast and as it burns, it releases toxic smoke which is often the cause of death more than the flames and heat.
The UK has laws in place to ensure that employers and landlords take preventative actions to protect the people who spend time inside their buildings. Most of us have practiced in fire evacuation drills at school or work. The majority of us are responsible people and use common sense to prevent fire happening in the first place, but in the familiar, cosy environment of your own home it is easy to get complacent about how quickly fires can devastate. It only takes minutes, sometimes even seconds, to be trapped by a fire.
Have an escape plan:
Have a clear escape plan that everyone who usually occupies the property is familiar with. If you reside or work in a large building with multiple occupants, check and incorporate the landlord or management guidance. Already knowing your escape routes will reduce panic and time spent getting out in the event of a fire.
Think about where you could escape from if your normal entrance and exit routes were blocked. Keep any necessary additional equipment close to these points, such as rope ladders next to upper floor windows. Make sure all escape routes are always kept clear and are never blocked.
Fit smoke alarms:
Always ensure the recommended number of smoke alarms and fire alarms are installed and that they work. Test them regularly, replacing failing ones immediately. They have saved innumerable lives by alerting people early enough to let them escape.
Install fire extinguishers:
Fire extinguishers are useful to put small fires out before they spread, preventing further damage or danger. Some may also be used as an emergency measure to make an exit route through fire. However it is important to understand and remember the different types of fire extinguisher and the different types of fire they should be used for, as incorrect use can make fires worse.
In a Fire
House fires can occur at any time and could leave you trying to evacuate in dark or difficult conditions. The most important actions are to call for the fire service’s help and get all people out of the house as quickly and calmly as possible by aiming for the nearest safe exit, whether it is a window or a door. Do not stop or detour to try and collect possessions.
- If safe to do so, close doors to slow the spread of fire.
- Before opening any door, look for smoke coming through the cracks and gaps, then feel if the door is warm – if either of these are happening then don’t open it as the fire may be behind it.
- Use towels, sheets or anything similar to block smoke from seeping through gaps to buy time.
- If smoke is filling the area, get low down on your hands and knees, as the smoke will tend to rise, leaving more breathable air nearest to the floor.
- Try to get to a window, open it for clean air and shout for help.
- If possible to exit through the window without risking injury, such as large ones on the ground floor level, then do so.
- Generally, fire services advise not to jump from windows unless there is immediate danger. In these situations, try and throw soft items down such as cushions or duvets to soften the fall, but do not try and push a mattress out – this could easily lead to the window being blocked so no-one can leave and the fire service cannot enter to rescue.
- Get children out first, as they might be too frightened to follow. Babies and very small children may be lowered out in a duvet case at arm’s length. Bigger children should be lowered out feet first, by their arms at your arm’s length to reduce the distance they are falling.
- When you leave, lower yourself down feet first, holding on with your hands and drop when you have fully extended your arms to reduce your fall distance.