Having a plan to escape fire saves lives

  • Published
  • By Jessie R. Moreno
  • Fire Protection Inspector, 902nd Civil Engineer Squadron

Thousands of people are killed by fire each year, but appropriate planning and preparation can save lives. People can survive fires in their homes by knowing proper escape procedures and being alerted in time.

The key to increasing your chances of escaping a fire safely is to be prepared. The priority for everyone should be staying informed and aware of exits, escape routes, and what procedures to follow in case of a fire.

Practice your escape plan at least twice a year. Your exit drill should be as realistic as possible. Have everyone participate and appoint someone to be a monitor. Pretend that some exits are blocked by fire and practice using alternate routes.

Unlocking all doors and windows rapidly – even in the dark – should be practiced by everyone. Some homes may have windows or doors that are equipped with security bars, so ensure they are available with quick-release devices and everyone knows how to use them.

Live in a two-story home? Be sure there is a safe way to reach the ground floor. Make provisions for children, seniors and people with disabilities so they are able to escape. People having difficulty moving should have a phone in their sleeping area and, if feasible, have their bedroom on the ground floor.

Always test the door, the knob and the crack between the door and its frame with the back of your hand to test for heat, prior to opening the door. If the door is warm, use an alternative escape route, because the fire is in the immediate area. Open the door with extreme caution, even if it feels cool.

Close all doors between you and the fire, if an escape route is not manageable. By stuffing the cracks around doors with T-shirts, bedsheets, or blankets will help keep out the smoke. Signal for help with a light-colored cloth or flashlight while standing by the window.

If you are caught inside a burning building, stay low under the smoke to increase your chances of survival. Smoke contains deadly gases and heat rises. Crawl on your hands and knees while maintaining your head 12 to 24 inches above the floor. During a fire, the air will be cleaner near the floor. If you encounter smoke when using your primary exit, use an alternate route.

Once outside, stay outside! Do not attempt to rescue possessions or pets. With loved ones still inside and possibly trapped this will be extremely difficult to do. Firefighters are better equipped to rescue them. Penetrating smoke and heat can be unbearable and firefighters have the training, experience, and protective gear to enter the burning building. Leave the building, go to your prearranged meeting point, and call 911.

For more information about fire escape planning, visit the National Fire Prevention Association website at www.nfpa.org/education or contact the Fire Prevention Offices at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston at 210-221-2727, JBSA-Lackland at 210-671-2921, or JBSA-Randolph at 210-652-6915.