Have you ever accidentally gone to sleep with a lit candle in the room? Left the stove on? Dropped a cigarette on the carpet? Even if the answer to all these questions is no, house fires do still happen, and the aftermath is devastating. Being prepared and knowing how to avoid panicking could be the difference between life and death, so here are some of the key things to remember if you find yourself caught in a house fire.
The first thing you need to do is alert anyone in the house of the fire. Call everybody by name and listen for their responses – shout as loudly as you possibly can.
Most people have a pre-planned escape route in case of emergency. If you don’t, it may be worth putting some thought into how you would get out of your home in the event of a fire. Share this route with everyone who lives in your home so there is no confusion.
As you escape, stay as low as possible. Smoke rises, and the fumes are poisonous so keep your nose as close to the ground as you can. If your clothes catch on fire, remember to stop, drop and roll. Running will just fan the flames and make it burn faster so the best course of action is to lie on the ground and roll around until the flames are extinguished. You can also try covering yourself with a blanket or coat to suffocate the fire.
As you leave, there are some important things to remember:
- Don’t stop to look for anything: Fire spreads fast and you may only have a few seconds to get to safety, so your primary concern should be getting yourself and your loved ones out of the house.
- Touch doors with the back of your hand before opening them. If the doors are warm, there’s fire on the other side and opening them may fan the flames. Fires rely on air to keep going so remember to close all doors and windows behind you to limit the amount of oxygen the fire can get.
If you cannot get out of your house, try to get everyone into one room and block off any spaces that would allow smoke into the room. You can grab towels, clothes and bedding to seal the space under the door. Try to choose a room that has a window so that you can call for help through it or even try to escape.
If you escape, do not go back inside. Move a safe distance from the house, call for help and wait for it to arrive. While you wait, you should check yourself and your loved ones for injuries – this information helps medical personnel when they arrive. When the rescue team arrives, let them know if there is anyone in the house and try to give them as much information about the house layout as possible. If medics were dispatched, give them your injury information as well.
Try to stay as far away from the fire as possible until the area has been cleared by the rescue team. Do not try to assist the team unless they explicitly ask for help, or you might risk putting yourself and the people around you in more danger.
Waking up to a house fire is a nightmare situation but preparing for the worst could save you and your family. Knowing how to escape and what to do will reduce the panic you feel in the moment and may ultimately save a life.
● What to do if there’s a fire in your home | Suffolk County Council. (2018). Suffolk.gov.uk. https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/suffolk-fire-and-rescue-service/fire-safety-in-the-home/in-the-event-of-fire-in-your-house/
● How to Keep Safe During a House Fire. (2018). wikiHow. https://www.wikihow.com/Keep-Safe-During-a-House-Fire
● What to Do When There’s a Fire. (2018). Fire Department. https://fire.arlingtonva.us/safety/theres-fire/
● What to do if there’s a fire | nidirect. (2015). Nidirect. https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/what-do-if-theres-fire