The problems and dangers caused by a house fire are very real indeed and it’s not simply a case of making sure that you have a smoke alarm fitted. Whilst we should all make sure that we do have smoke detection devices fitted in our homes and that they are always in working order by checking them every week, it’s also important to have some kind of a plan to evacuate the house in the event of a genuine fire and that everyone is aware of the plan and understands it. You should even extend that to friends and relatives who come over to stay in your house.
Closing Doors At Night
You should get into the habit of closing all doors inside your house at night when you go to bed, particularly those downstairs. If a fire was to break out, a closed door can keep fire at bay for an extra 15 minutes or so which could make all the difference in whether you get out safely or not. It will also help to keep your escape route clear of smoke.
The Escape Plan
Whoever is the first to be alerted by a fire, you need to shout to warn the rest of the occupants in your house to get out. Don’t panic but neither should you delay getting out. Don’t be gathering up any valuables. A delay could cost you your life. Take extra care with children and any elderly relatives you may have staying with you. They’re more likely to start panicking, so calmly, yet quickly, reassure them and all follow the escape plan which you should all be aware of. Providing you’re escape route is clear, make your way out of the house then once you’re all outside, call the fire brigade on 999. Don’t make the mistake of dialling 999 before you reach safety – every second you remain inside the house is a second lost to reaching safety.
Neither should you waste time by trying to locate the source of the fire. Once again, this is time lost and is also highly dangerous. If you find that the smoke is quite dense but you can still reach your escape exit, crouch down or even crawl towards the exit if you have to as the air will be cooler and cleaner the closer you are to the floor.
If You Cannot Escape
In addition to having an escape plan, if your exit is blocked, everybody should also be aware of the relevant escape room which you should all head for. If you don’t have a phone extension, it’s useful to keep a mobile phone in this room which you can use to dial 999. Once you are all inside, you should close the door tightly behind you and use sheets, clothes or any other suitable material you can find to put under the bottom of the door to stop any smoke from getting in. Then you should open the window and yell “FIRE, FIRE” to alert neighbours or passers-by. Once you have called the fire brigade, you should sit tight and remain calm. Many people have died by panicking at this point and have attempted to jump out of the window with devastating consequences. The choice of room should be one which allows the fire brigade the easiest possible access and one where you will all be easily visible to them. It should also have a window which is large enough for you to climb out of or a fire crew member to climb into. However, providing it is safe to do so, you should stay in the room and wait for help to arrive. If there are several of you in the room, take turns to put your head out of the window to ensure that you can all get some fresh air sporadically.
If The Conditions Are Too Bad
If the smoke inside the room becomes so dense or you’re in danger of the flames entering the room before the fire brigade arrives, then (and only then) should you consider trying to make an escape from the window. Wherever possible, you should choose a room where there’s possibly grass or earth below it, not concrete. And if there’s a shed or porch under the window onto which you can lower yourself down onto – even better. In exiting the window, do not jump. You should lower yourself to arm’s length from the window sill and then drop down. Don’t bother trying to get a mattress out first as it may get stuck which will not only block your escape route but will also impede the fire fighters trying to get in.
Young Children and Babies
Never assume that it’s better for you to climb out of the window first so that you can catch any children who will follow after you if you are the only adult present. Young children in particular can become so paralysed by fear that they will not jump after you and if you go first and they don’t jump, there may be no way to get back inside to rescue them and, even if you can, you could be putting your life in even more danger. Instead, have the young children climb out first and try to lower them as much as you can before letting them drop. In this instance, grasp them by their wrist, not their hand as then they’ll have no option but to fall to the ground. In certain cases with small babies, you may be able to put them inside a duvet cover and lower them to the ground or to a neighbour below who may have come to help. However, don’t bother with devising a makeshift rope out of sheets as the chances are that the knots will come undone and/or tying it to a bedpost or similar will prove equally disastrous. If there are two adults present, one should escape first who can then help at the bottom but then the other adult should not make their escape before getting all of the children out first.
In following all of this advice, you’re less likely to panic and be in a position to buy yourself valuable time which could make all the difference between life and death for you and your family.