Smoke fills the room. A blazing inferno lies outside your door. No one wants to wake up to the deafening sound of a smoke alarm, but if you should find yourself in that position, don’t do this. In the United States, a fire department responded to a fire approximately every 23 seconds throughout 2020. Even worse, there was one fatal house fire every three hours and 24 minutes. To keep you from becoming part of the statistic, we have a list of the biggest mistakes you could make in a fire. How could fresh air hurt you? What makes an elevator so dangerous? And why should you close every door you have open?
Number 5: No Elevators and No Jumping
Ideally, if you find yourself in a fire, you are on the ground floor. Being trapped on a higher floor, you might be tempted to use an elevator or jump. These both could be deadly choices. When a building is on fire, it’s possible for elevators to malfunction or have electrical fires that could leave you stranded between floors. And jumping off the building will most likely lead to injuries that could be more dangerous than protecting yourself in the building until you are rescued.
Number 4: Keep Windows Closed
You might think that breaking or opening a window will allow fresh air to enter the building and help those inside breathe better. However, this can increase the development and intensity of the fire. Fires require oxygen, and breaking windows will only add fuel to an already dangerous situation. It will also make the job of the firefighters even more difficult when they arrive.
Number 3: Do Not Open Any Doors
Searching for different ways to escape might be a good idea, but you shouldn’t just open a door. Doors actually work as a sort of temporary barrier for flames and the flow of oxygen, so it’s smarter to check for alternative routes of escape first. If you do need to open a door, shut it behind you. This will avoid fueling the fire with oxygen from other parts of the building. One mother learned this lesson the hard way. She was woken by her husband yelling that ttheir house was on fire. She got up, ran to the door and opened it. She was thrown back by the heat on the other side. Thankfully, she was able to rescue her young son from the flames and all three escaped, but this is an important lesson about not swinging doors open no matter the circumstances.
Number 2: No Hiding
While hiding may seem like a good idea to get you away from the scalding flames, it will make it more difficult for firefighters to find you. When you hear the firefighters, make your position known by shouting or pounding the floor.
Number 1: Don’t Play Firefighter
It is estimated that 34% of house fire injuries occur while attempting to put out or control the fire. This is not the time to pretend you’re a firefighter. New York City firefighter Christopher Doyle instructs people to never try extinguishing a fire themselves. Each second increases your likelihood of smoke inhalation. Stay low and leave the fire area as quickly as possible. Remember, it can take just 30 seconds for a fire to become a serious problem and just five minutes for it to take over a building. And after that, your entire neighborhood could turn into a raging wildfire.
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- Real life: How I survived a house fire. Reader’s Digest Editors (2022). Reader’s Digest.
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- Naked Man Escapes Fire By Leaping Onto Double Decker Bus. PA (2015). Huffpost.
- U.S. House Fire Facts & Statistics. Rivelli, E. (2022). Bankrate.