If there is a fire at your home, personal safety and the safety of all of the people in your home should always be the most important priority. Knowing what to do if there is a fire can help to keep everyone safe and should help to minimise the damage that is caused. Ideally, all homes should have a pre-prepared fire plan so that everyone knows what to do straight away. Here is what you should do if you discover a fire in your home.
Take steps to make sure that everyone stays calm if there is a fire at your home. However, make sure that everyone is alert to the real and present danger. Panicking people are more likely to do illogical things, and this could put people at greater risk. They are also more likely to get hurt if they are rushing around. Having a pre-prepared fire plan which all of the family are familiar with can help people to stay calm in an emergency situation.
Start to Leave the Building
Begin to exit the building as quickly as possible without running or pushing. Having a pre-planned escape route can help family members to know the best way to get out of the house. This is usually the shortest path out of the door, although alternative routes may be considered if obstacles or obstructions are likely to slow people down. If smoke has already started to fill the building, you must stay as low as possible. Crawl if you need to. This is important, because smoke inhalation is a leading cause of death in domestic house fire incidents. Smoke rises, and therefore the air closest to the ground should be cleaner and easier to breathe. Following this advice is especially important for young children or asthmatics, because they are most susceptible to smoke damage.
Opening and Closing Doors
If you know that everyone is out of a room, you should close the door of that room behind you. This can help to delay the spread of the fire and will reduce the amount of smoke which can get into that room. You should be very careful if you come across a closed door on your escape route. It is impossible to know what might be on the other side, but opening a closed door to a room can create a backdraught. This occurs when additional oxygen is introduced to a room where the fire is beginning to become starved of oxygen. A tongue of flames may shoot out of the doorway if the door is opened. This can cause serious injuries to the person who opened the door. Always test the door with the back of your hand to see if it is warm. If the door is much warmer than the rest of the room, then this is a strong sign that the fire is on the other side of the door. The door should not be opened.
You should not stop moving until you have arrived at a safe location away from the building. This point should be far enough away that you are not affected by the heat or the smoke which is coming from the building. Pre-arranging a meeting point with your family will help you to make sure that everyone is there.
Personal safety is paramount in domestic fire situations. Never stop to collect any valuables or personal possessions whilst you are leaving. This can put you in danger and may actually hamper the abilities of the fire service. Likewise, do not go back to look for your cat or dog. Most cats and dogs will be able to make their own way out of the building, and were probably aware of the fire long before you were.
Only stop to call 999 once you are out of the building. Remember that it is always possible to call 999 on a mobile phone, even if the phone is set to locked mode or if the phone has no credit balance. Typing in 999 should override this lock and allow you to call the emergency services. You should also be able to use any network provider to make this call, if your own provider does not have any phone signal. If you cannot get phone signal or if you do not have a phone with you, a member of the group should go to a nearby property to use their phone. Give as many details as you can to the fire service, and let them know if you think that someone might still be trapped inside the building. If you have the chance, you may also start to prepare a map of the building for the fire service. This can help them to get to critical areas quite quickly. When the fire service arrives, they may ask you if you know any information about the origin of the blaze. This can help them to tackle the fire, so you should always be truthful about it if you do know something.
Never Go Back
Do not go back into the building unless you have been told to do so by a member of the fire crew, even if you believe that someone else is trapped inside the house. It is possible that they may exist whilst you are trying to gain re-entry, and you might not know about it is you leave the agreed meeting point. Going back into a building will hamper the fire crew’s ability to tackle the blaze and could actually put their lives at risk. Staying outside to advise them about the layout of the house and any potential obstructions will be far more helpful to the crew. Even if the fire has been extinguished, you should listen to the instructions of the fire crew. Fire is likely to affect the structure of a building, and the building may become structurally unsafe. The building may have become a collapse risk due to the fire, and entering could put you at risk.