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What To Do Before, During and After a Fire

What To Do Before, During and After a Fire


Understanding Fire

Fires occur daily throughout the country and unfortunately, too few people understand how fire behaves or have proper plans in place. Understanding the nature of fire is necessary in order to formulate a proper escape plan.

Only by knowing the true nature of fire can we make proper safety precautions. Fire is fast, hot, dark and deadly.

Because fire is fast there is little time to ponder your actions. In less than 30 seconds a small flame can get completely out of control and turn into a major fire. In a few minutes It only takes minutes thick black smoke can fill a building or engulf it totally in flames. This is why all thoughts of gathering valuables should be discarded in the event of fire. Because fire and smoke spread so quickly there is only time to escape.

A fire's heat alone can kill and is even more deadly than flames. During a fire room temperatures can be 100 degrees at floor level and rise to 600 degrees at eye level. Inhaling this super-hot air will scorch your lungs. Heat at this intensity can melt clothes to your skin. In five minutes, a room can get so hot that everything in it ignites at once: this is called flashover.

Fire isn't bright, it's pitch black. Fire starts bright, but quickly produces black smoke that completely darkness the interior of a burning building. This smoky darkness can leave you blind, disoriented and unable to find your way around a building you've lived or worked in for years.

Fire uses up the oxygen you need to breathe and produces smoke and poisonous gases that kill. More people are killed by smoke and toxic gases than by flames. Breathing even small amounts of smoke and toxic gases can make you drowsy, disoriented and short of breath. The odorless, colorless fumes can lull you into a deep sleep before the flames reach your door. If asleep, you may not wake up in time to escape, which is why every building needs smoke detectors.

Creating and Practicing a Fire Escape Plan

In a fire every second counts, so you (and the children in your care) must always be prepared. Escape plans are designed to get you out of the building quickly.

At a minimum, practice your fire escape plan twice a year. Some tips to consider when preparing this plan include:

  • Find two ways to get out of each room.
  • If the primary way is blocked by fire or smoke, you will need a second way out. A secondary route might be a window onto a neighboring roof or a collapsible ladder for escape from upper story windows.
  • Only purchase collapsible ladders evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL).
  • Make sure that windows are not stuck, screens can be taken out quickly, and that security bars can be properly opened.
  • Practice feeling your way out of the building in the dark or with your eyes closed.
  • Windows and dors wiith security bars must have quick release devices to allow them to be opened immediately in an emergency. Make sure everyone on staff understands and practices how to properly operate and open locked or barred windows and doors.
  • Teach children not to hide from firefighters.
  • Ask your local fire department for help. Have them evaluate or help create your escape plan. In addition they can evaluate your building for possible fire hazards as well as talk to the children about fire safety.
  • Conduct periodic fire drills so that everyone knows what to do and expect.
During a Fire
  • Crawl low under any smoke to your exit - heavy smoke and poisonous gases collect first along the ceiling.
  • When the smoke alarm sounds, get moving. Get out fast. You may only have seconds to escape safely.
  • If there is smoke blocking your door or first way out, use your second way out.
  • Smoke is toxic. If you must escape through smoke, get low and go under the smoke to your way out.
  • Before opening a door, feel the doorknob and door. If either is hot, leave the door closed and use your second way out.
  • If there is smoke coming around the door, leave the door closed and use your second way out.
  • If you open a door, open it slowly. Be ready to shut it quickly if heavy smoke or fire is present.
  • If you can’t get to someone needing assistance, get out of th building and call 9-1-1 or the fire department. Tell the emergency operator where the person is located.
  • If people or pets are trapped inside your home, tell firefighters immediately.
  • If you can’t get out, close the door and cover vents and cracks around doors with cloth or tape to keep smoke out. Call 9-1-1 or your fire department. Say where you are and signal for help at the window with a light-colored cloth or a flashlight.
  • If your clothes catch fire, stop, drop, and roll – stop immediately, drop to the ground, and cover your face with your hands. Roll over and over or back and forth until the fire is out. If you or someone else cannot stop, drop, and roll, smother the flames with a blanket or towel. Use cool water to treat the burn immediately for 3 to 5 minutes. Cover with a clean, dry cloth. Get medical help right away by calling 9-1-1 or the fire department.
Escaping a Fire
  • Make sure windows are not nailed or painted shut. Make sure security gratings on windows have a fire safety opening feature so they can be easily opened from the inside.
  • Consider escape ladders if your building has more than one level, and ensure that burglar bars and other anti-theft mechanisms that block outside window entry are easily opened from the inside.
  • Teach others to stay low to the floor (where the air is safer in a fire) when escaping from a fire.

After a Fire

When fire strikes, lives are suddenly turned around. Recovering from a fire can be physically and mentally draining. Often, the hardest part is knowing where to begin and who to contact.
The following checklist serves as a quick reference and guide for you to follow after a fire strikes.
  • Conduct a head count and make certain all the children are accounted for. Then contact their parents.
  • Contact your local disaster relief service, such as The Red Cross, if you need temporary housing, food and/or medicines.
  • If you are insured, contact your insurance company for detailed instructions on protecting the property, conducting inventory and contacting fire damage restoration companies. If you are not insured, try contacting private organizations for aid and assistance.
  • Check with the fire department to make sure your building is safe to enter. Be watchful of any structural damage caused by the fire.
  • The fire department should see that utilities are either safe to use or are disconnected before they leave the site. DO NOT attempt to reconnect utilities yourself.
  • Conduct an inventory of damaged property and items. Do not throw away any damaged goods until after an inventory is made.
  • Try to locate valuable documents and records. Refer to information on contacts and the replacement process inside this brochure.
  • If you leave your home, contact the local police department to let them know the site will be unoccupied.
  • Begin saving receipts for any money you spend related to fire loss. The receipts may be needed later by the insurance company and for verifying losses claimed on income tax.
  • Notify your mortgage company of the fire.
  • Check with an accountant or the Internal Revenue Service about special benefits for people recovering from fire loss.
For more information on what you should do after a fire, including valuing your property, replacing documents, and salvage hints, visit the U.S. Fire Administration’s website.

Please be advised that information contained in this site may be dated. No insurance coverage can be bound, deleted, modified or in any other manner effected through this website. Complete information regarding coverage and exclusions can be found in policy documents.  The information contained in this website is summary in nature.