Every year, fires claim a lot of lives and injure more. In 2011 alone, there were1,389,500 fires reported in the country. These incidents caused over 3,000 deaths, 17,500 injuries and $11.7 billion in property damage. In short, one home structure fire was reported every 85 seconds. There are no natural warnings that will signal a fire unless you regularly check your fire alarm system. You can prepare by having several exits, installing smoke detectors and informing your family what to do during a fire. In case you find yourself in the worst scenario, here are a few things you should remember in order to survive a fire.
1. There are different things that might warn you of fire. Alarm systems with smoke detectors and cameras are great investments as these can alert you before the fire spreads. Smoke, the smell of burning wood or plastic or even pets behaving oddly may signal a fire. Once you are sure that you are in danger, alert all adults in the house. Avoid scaring the children or the elderly. Panic can kill as much as the fire. Quickly locate the nearest exit and head for it. Fires can spread in a few seconds.
2. Try to breathe as little smoke as possible. If you can, wet your shirt or a towel and cover your nose and your mouth. Certain household chemicals, plastic, and some types of wood produce toxic fumes that can quickly suffocate you. Heated smoke is usually lighter than air creating a breathable pocket of air on the ground. Keep your mouth and nose as low on the ground as possible. Continue crawling to the nearest exit.
3. If you need to go through a door for an exit, do not immediately open it. Check the gap under the door. If there is smoke coming out, do not open the door. Also, use the back of your hand to check if the door is hot. There is a big chance that the other side of the door is already on fire. Opening the door will add oxygen to the fire and will create a flash that will burn you. If possible, cover the gap with cloth and head to another exit, preferably a window.
4. Make sure to make plenty of noise if you can. There is a chance that someone is stuck and might need some help. Also, smoke blocks the view of firefighters. They may be just a few feet away, but if they cannot see you, they won’t be able to help you.
5. If you find yourself needing to jump from the higher floors of your house, if you can, drop cushions of bedding to the ground to break your fall. Get yourself out of the window feet first. Make sure that you have a secure footing or you can hold on to something stable. Accidentally falling will only worsen your injuries. Lower yourself to the full length of your arms before dropping.
6. If your clothing catches fire, remember Stop, Drop, Rock and Roll. Water may be hard to find and quick thinking is the key to survival. Stop and put your hands over your face, cover your nose, mouth, and eyes. Drop gently to the ground. Rock and roll back and forth on the ground until your clothes stop burning. Avoid running at all cost as this will add oxygen and can spread fire on your body. Stop, Drop, Rock and Roll will smother the fire while protecting your face from burning.
7. Do not try to grab any possession. Your priority during a fire is your safety and your family. Once you are out of danger, close any door or window to avoid the fire from spreading. This will give the firefighters time to contain and put the fire out. Do not go back in and rescue your things. If you need to rescue valuable things, such as documents, grab only those within your arm’s reach. Documents, money and any other things are easily replaceable once you are out of danger.
8. If you find yourself and your family unable to find any exit, get everyone in the safest room. If possible stay in places with available water, such as the kitchen or a bathroom, or head to the lower part of the house. If in a bathroom, wet your clothes and stick together. Use wet clothes to cover the gap under the door to prevent the smoke from spreading.
9. Remember to keep everyone in the same location. This will help firefighters locate you easier. Once you see the fire department arrive, make sure to make plenty of noise. Locate any openings and wave any bright clothing, such as curtains or towels, to catch the attention of rescuers.
10. Once outside, attend to the children first and do not try to treat any serious injuries. Alert the medical staff quickly. People may not notice any pain due to the adrenalin rush and panic, so make sure to check yourself and your family for any injuries. Do not remove burnt clothes on skin. Let the medical staff treat you to avoid further injuries.
Fires are unavoidable as long as every member of the family is vigilant and careful. Every day, there is a threat of fire from simple activities such as smoking and cooking. Electronic appliances are also susceptible to fires when left unchecked. Event lint that built up in a washing machine can burst to flames when enough friction causes the flammable material to heat up. As with any calamities,preparation is the key. Avoid smoking inside the house especially before bedtime as this is one of the leading causes of most fires. Practice emergency drills with your family. Make sure that everyone knows where the fire exits are. There’s a reason why establishments, especially those in high-rise structures, hold fire drills at least once a year. By reenacting emergency events, you and your family can act quickly before panic sets in. Lastly, invest on a good security system that includes fire alarms and smoke detectors.