How to Escape a Burning Building

December 31, 2013 by | Be the first to comment »

I can think of few things more terrifying than dying in a fire. Fortunately that was never too much of a concern for me because growing up in a family of firefighters, we had our fire drills down to a science.

That’s critical because escaping a burning building leaves little room for error, and proper techniques often go against our natural instincts.

It comes down to two simple things: a plan and practice. If you try to come up with your escape plan while choking on smoke and surrounded by flames, there will be panic and you and/or your family will likely die. Trust me, if you’ve never been in the middle of a large fire, you have no idea how intense it can be. You should develop a plan to escape from each room of your home and ensure that each family member clearly understands that plan. Then you need to practice that plan, first in the light, then in the dark.

When developing your plan, you’ll need to be aware of the following tips and techniques:

  • Install smoke detectors in each room of your house and test them each month. The sooner you’re alerted about a fire, the greater your chances of survival because you’ll have more time to escape the building. (Or extinguish the fire if it’s small enough.)
  • Utilize nightlights in shared space like hallways, the family room, or kitchen. Smoke from even a small fire will greatly obscure visibility.
  • Stay low to avoid as much smoke and heat as possible. In a large fire, super-heated gasses can burn your lungs, and the smoke is just as deadly. Crouching may be adequate in a smaller fire with little smoke, but a larger fire may require that you crawl low to the ground.
  • Feel doors before opening them. Extreme heat indicates that a large fire may be raging on the other side and opening them could create a massive backdraft. You’ll have to open the door if you need to rescue a family member, but if it’s just a matter of escaping, see if you can find a different route. If that’s not an option, open the door slowly and stay to the side.
  • Designate a rally point outside where all family members will meet. Once you get there, ensure everyone stays there—do not go back into the house under any circumstances.

Melanie Swick (a.k.a. Survival Chick) grew up wanting to be a rocket scientist, but when she realized she that required way too much math, she took to her second dream—spending time in the wilderness. Today, when she's not hiking, camping, or hunting, she's blogging about it. You can connect with Melanie on Facebook.

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