When we think of fire safety, more often than not, we are thinking of prevention. And fire prevention is incredibly important to your safety at work and home. But sometimes, even the best prevention plans can fail.
That’s why it’s important to know what to do in case of fire. You need to have a solid plan. Part of that plan should factor in the unpredictability of fire, though. If you don’t have access to your primary plan, you need to know what to do right away — because a fire won’t wait for you to review.
Fire in the Workplace
Knowing what to do in case of fire at work sometimes depends on where you work. Restaurant kitchens may have more opportunities for fire to break out but also have more preventative measures in place to handle the different types of fire that could occur.
In most offices and retail spaces, fire is much less common, and many people who work in those environments do not know what procedures are in place in case of fire. The first thing you should do is familiarize yourself with fire alarm locations, emergency exits, and fire extinguisher locations.
What is the first thing you do in a case of fire at your workspace?
The first thing you should do in case of fire is alert the people around you. An automatic fire alarm system may do that for you, but if your workplace does not have one, you must pull the alarm before doing anything else. Make sure 911 is called.
After you have alerted your workplace, you can attempt to put out the fire if it is not too large. Make sure your training on the fire extinguishers at your workplace is up to date.
How to use a fire extinguisher?
When using an extinguisher, remember PASS — Pull the pin, Aim at the base of the flames, Squeeze the extinguisher handle, and Sweep side to side.
Keep spraying with the fire extinguisher until the fire is entirely out. If the fire continues to burn or grow, do not keep fighting it. Get out of the building. If you are in a building with an elevator, do not use it. Take the stairs.
This is where preparation can make a huge difference. Running fire drills every six months ensures that everyone in the workplace knows what to do and where to meet up when they get out of the building. It is important that everyone meet at a predetermined spot so that the fire department can be told if anyone is missing.
What if you cannot reach the emergency exit?
If you get caught in an office and cannot get to an emergency exit, block the cracks under doors around you with whatever cloth you can get your hands on. If you are on the ground floor, exiting out a window could be a viable option for you. If you work on a higher floor, do what you can to alert the fire department of your presence and wait for their assistance.
Some workplaces will have team members that serve as “fire marshalls.” Their job is to make sure everyone remembers where to go in case of fire. They make sure everyone knows the plan. If you are not a fire marshall, do not get in the way of the execution of their responsibilities.
Fire in a House
Pop quiz: your home is on fire, what do you do? Do you know what to do during a fire emergency? Do you know what to do after a fire? Do you know the most common fire hazards in your home? You should be able to answer these questions.
The first thing to remember is that fire drills aren’t just for work and school. Run drills with your family twice a year. You can even change things up by having the fire start in different parts of your home to make sure everyone knows their contingency plans.
Find a meeting point
Select a place to gather when you get out of the house. It should be far enough away from the house to keep you safe from potential collapse or explosions. Coordinate with your neighbors if you want to use their property as a meeting point.
Incidentally, by running these drills twice a year, you can also use them as a reminder to change the batteries on your smoke detectors. But how can these drills help you know what to do in case of fire?
Regular drills help your household remember where the fire extinguishers are in the house and their best exits. If your home has more than one level, drills can also help remind people how to use safety equipment like collapsable window ladders.
It’s also very important to drill behaviors based on different scenarios. For example, make sure your family knows that if there is heavy smoke, they should get as low to the ground as possible while getting out of the house.
Smoke and fire are equally dangerous
Smoke is highly toxic and statistically does more harm to people than flames. But smoke rises. So crawling to safety can be your family’s best bet when it is thick in your home.
Make sure everyone in your household knows that it is unsafe to open doors willy-nilly during a fire. Opening a door too quickly can bring a rush of oxygen to a fire, making it suddenly more intense and potentially causing it to cut off your escape root or worse.
Before opening a door during a fire, check to see if smoke is coming through the crack at the bottom. Then check the door to see if it feels hot. Then check the knob for heat. If the door and knob do not feel hot, open the door slowly and close it behind you.
What if you are trapped in the upstairs room?
If you are caught in a room on an upper floor and cannot get past the flames to a safe exit, block the cracks around the door you’re behind with clothing or towels — whatever you have available to you. Also, block vents that may allow smoke into the room. Wet cloth works best, but use what you have at the moment.
Open the window and hang something bright outside of it to alert firefighters to your presence. Do not go into a closet or hide under a bed. That will make it more difficult for firefighters to find you and won’t provide you with additional protection.
Your safety first
The most challenging thing to remember is that you need to train everyone in your household to get out as quickly as possible without taking extra time. That means no gathering objects with sentimental value and no corralling and carrying out pets.
Let the fire department attempt to get your pets when they arrive. Every human’s priority must be getting out of the house quickly before calling 911. Trying to get a pet out from under a couch or into a carrier will cost time and, potentially, could cost your life.
No matter where fire happens, remember to alert the people around you, get out of the building quickly and efficiently, and then call 911. The dispatchers may need more information from you than you could feasibly give while escaping the fire, so call them after you are out.
If your clothes catch fire, remember to stop, drop, and roll. It really does work, and running around only gives the fire on your clothing more air and more chance to spread.
Know how to use your extinguishers and keep them in good working order. But know their limits. If you aren’t stopping a fire with your fire extinguisher, get out of there.
And always remember, if you have questions about fire prevention or what to do in case of fire, your local fire department will have plenty of information to give you. And the best way to prevent fire is to use fire retardant products! Stay prepared and stay safe!