Fires can happen anywhere. A fire in a large building creates an
enormous risk to everyone. Other reasons for evacuating
buildings include natural gas leaks, earthquakes, hurricanes, hazardous
material spills and storms. Knowing what to do is the key to
surviving a fire emergency. Conducting regular fire drills will give you
the knowledge and confidence to escape a fire safely.
There are two steps for a good evacuation program - planning and practice.
Planning gives you the information you need ahead of time to evacuate
safely. In the workplace, employees and supervisors
should plan together for exiting their worksite. At school, involve all
school staff including teachers, administrative and office
workers, and the maintenance and food service staff.
Working together, design an evacuation plan to meet the specific needs
of your building and your occupants. Make the plan
clear and concise. Review the plan and walk through the exit procedure
to make sure that everyone knows what to do.
Each building, whether it be a school, workplace or multi-family living
unit, should have a posted exit diagram (plan) and
everyone should be familiar with it.
Be sure that smoke detectors are installed and maintained. Know the
sound of the fire alarm. Everyone should recognize and
respond to the sound of the smoke detector or other fire alarm
immediately. Immediate response is vital for a quick, orderly evacuation.
Everyone should exit in an orderly manner to prevent confusion and
minimize panic or injury. No one should push their way out
an exit. Single file lines are best in controlling traffic to the exits.
Consider special needs people. When developing your escape plan,
remember that younger, older, or disabled people may
need special assistance. Anyone with special needs should be located as
close to an exit as possible or provided a safe area of refuse. Train others
to give special assistance with evacuation.
Be sure to know two ways out. There should be two ways out of every area
of the home, school, or workplace. If the
primary exit is blocked by smoke or fire, use your second exit. Point
out all emergency exits as you walk through the emergency procedure.
Always use the stairways to exit multi-story buildings. Do not use an
elevator. An elevator may stop between floors, or go to
the fire floor and stop with the doors open.
If a room or corridor is filled with smoke, crawl low on your hands and
knees to exit. The cleaner air is closer to the ground.
Plan your meeting place. A designated meeting place outside the building
is a vital part of an evacuation plan. Count heads.
Be aware of who is there (hopefully everybody will be accounted for) and
who is not there. When the fire department arrives,
you can report if there is anyone missing.
Know what to do if you can't escape. You'll need to plan your actions in
case immediate escape is impossible. If possible, for
example, stay in a room with an outside window and always close doors
between you and the fire. Think about what you could
use - sheets, towels, curtains, or even large pieces of clothing - to
stuff around cracks near the door and wave as a signal to
rescuers. Know how to open the window to ventilate smoke, but be
prepared to close the window immediately if an open
window makes the room smokier. If there is a phone, call the fire
department with your location, even if firefighters are already
on the scene. Remember, stay low in smoke until you're rescued.
After planning, practice to make sure that everyone knows what to do.
Have fire drills. Practice your fire escape periodically
throughout the year. Remember, the element of surprise simulates a real
fire and adds essential realism to your fire drill program.
Appoint someone to monitor the drill. This person will sound the alarm
and make the drill realistic by requiring participants to
use their second way out or to crawl low. This could be done by having
someone hold up a sign reading "smoke" or "exit blocked by fire".
The monitor also will measure how long complete evacuation takes.
Coordinate arrangements for fire drills in apartments or other
multi-family homes, in schools or in workplaces with the local fire department.
After the evacuation, take a head count at the designated meeting
place(s) to account for everyone's participation and safe evacuation.
When everyone is back inside the building after the drill, get everyone
together to discuss any questions or problems that
occurred during the drill. Redesign the drill procedures as needed. Make
the next fire drill even more effective.
Remember, once you are outside, stay outside. Don't go back in until the
proper authorities say it is okay.
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