How to Survive a Fire: Safety Tips

The statistics are scary, but it is possible to survive a fire.  In the next two hours, someone in the United States is likely to die in a fire.  According to the National Fire Protection Association, 80% of these deaths will happen at home.  But thanks to a high tech city in New Jersey that has already been burned down thousands of times, Firefighters have a realistic opportunity to practice saving lives.  You can use the techniques they learn everyday to learn how to survive a fire.

At first glance, the Bergen County Fire Academy in New Jersey looks like a city block.  With a 110 seat movie theater, a bank, a condominium town house and high rise apartment building, this facility looks like a small town in Anywhere, USA.  But this is a very special place.  With the entering of a few computer keystrokes, the entire building can erupt into a towering inferno designed to teach both fire fighters and the public how to survive a fire.  In fact, this academy is one of the few places in the world where you can set a building on fire, put the public in it and safely learn how they react to the hostile environment of heat, smoke and fire.

Alt=Fire safety planSurviving FireChief John Evans helped design the facility and is in charge of the training.  According to Evans, for every group of visitors brought through, one out of three have had an experience with fire at home, work or on vacation.  Tragically, he points out, most have never learned the basics of fire escape.  “In school, kids learn to stop-drop and roll. That’s great if you’re on fire but most people have never been really taught how to survive a fire and get out when a fire strikes”.  Plus, says Evans, “virtually every single fire fighting or warning system we have works only after he fire has begun.  Being prepared is the only thing you can do ahead of time to survive a fire”.

So how do you survive a fire.  How do you prepare for a fire?  According to Evans, it all starts with planning.  Here’s where to begin:

Make a plan:  Draw a floor plan of your home.  Meet with the entire family and talk about how you might get out and survive a fire if the fire was in different places in your home.  “Move” the fire around and plan alternate escape routes on paper.

Mental prep:  Live the fire in your mind from every room in your house.  Go to each room, close your eyes and find the exit, then find a second exit in case the first one is not available.  Having this info in the back of your head will help you act instinctively and survive a fire.

Practice Makes Perfect:  Imagine what you would feel to determine if you were going in the right direction to get out in the event of a fire.  Remember that smoke not only makes it hard to breathe, it may be that you can’t see anything and have to feel your way out.
When trying to survive a fire, remember it’s critical to stay low.  Heat and toxic gasses fill a burning room from the top down.  Standing up can be deadly.

Evans also suggests making a habit of sleeping with bedroom doors closed.  “Closed doors will slow down or prevent the spread of a fire.  Plus, open doors can allow toxic gasses and smoke to seep into your bedroom and kill you before the fire does”, he says.

Remember that having working smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and escape ladders is a critical part of your fire fighting defense.  But like the football saying goes, the best defense is a good offense.  Planning, preparing and practicing your fire escape plan ahead of time can mean the difference between serious injury or death, and learning how to survive a fire… one of life’s most common tragedies.

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