In the UK, historic fires such as the First Great Fire of London and more recent ones like the Grenfell Tower fire have killed thousands. But how would you react if you woke up in the middle of the night in a room filled with smoke? Do you and your family know what to do if there was a fire in your home? If you don’t, then it is time to get organised and start planning your way out of a fire with the help of these top ten tips.
1 – Prevent
The best way to deal with a fire is to stop it from happening in the first place. See our guide to preventing a fire.
2 – Alarm
So many fires happen in the middle of the night when everyone is sleeping, so having a fitted working smoke alarm is a vital step in protecting you and your family from a house fire. If you live in a high rise tower block, invest in one for your apartment even if there is a warning system in the building.
3 – Know the escape route
Make a plan for your escape and inform all of your family even the little ones. The best way out of your home would be the normal way in and out of the house. Make sure the keys to any doors or windows can be easily found. If you live in an apartment block avoid using lifts and balconies. As it is so easy to get confused in a smoke-filled room, be prepared by knowing how many doors you need to go through. Make sure doors to stairwells and other exits are not locked.
4 – Know a second escape route
If one route is blocked or you can’t get out at all then you and your family will need to know what to to do. Ideally, you should plan to get everyone into a room with a window and possibly a phone. Fill the bottom of doors up with bedding or soft furnishings to block out the smoke. Call 999 and shout “HELP, FIRE!” out of the window. A ground floor escape can be made through windows. Do not jump as you may injure yourself. Instead, climb out and lower yourself down carefully, breaking your descent with bedding if needed. If necessary, window panes can be broken in the bottom corner, with any sharp edges being covered up with bedding or a towel.
5 – Practice your route
Now you are at a stage of knowing your route, but what would really happen in the middle of the night? Practice makes perfect, this is especially pertinent for young children who might remember it better if it is acted out. Just a few minutes would be all it takes. Keep calm, and make clear commands to get everyone out of the house as soon as possible. Make sure no-one is wasting time rescuing valuables. What would you do if there was smoke? Practice keeping low where the air is less polluted. Check doors, if they are warm don’t open them as there is fire on the other side.
6 – Clear the escape route.
Your evacuation route should always remain clear. Make sure there are no toys on the floor to trip over or boxes and rubbish that could catch fire.
7 – Invest in a fire face mask
Smoke inhalation is one of the biggest killers during a house fire. A face mask for fire safety can prevent inhalation of toxic carbon monoxide and other nasty gases. The best choice of fire mask for you will depend on many factors. Some masks provide 15 minutes of breathable air whereas some go up to 60 minute, which could allow enough time to get down a stairwell. A wise purchase made now may be a lifesaver in future.
8 – Get in the know about the different types of fires
Kitchen fires with hot oil for example may need to be dealt with differently from electrical fires. You should only consider tackling a fire if you are fully competent to do so, if it is unmanageable or there is any doubt get out and let the professionals deal with it. But what if it’s on your clothes? Stop, Drop and Roll is the mantra – do not run.
9 – Check each night
Before you head on upstairs, check your house. Remove anything in the escape route. Close inner doors to break the spread of a fire and make sure any keys to locked doors are easily accessible. Turn off your cooker and any possible electrical appliances. Make sure there are no candles still alight and put out those cigarettes!
10 – Review
Life evolves and so must your fire safety plan. If you knock down walls or move the kids’ bedrooms around make sure you review and update your evacuation procedure. It would also be good to go over it on a regular basis with the family so they don’t forget.
Remember, knowledge is power, so the more you do now to plan, the more prepared you and your family will be if a house fire does happen when you are least expecting it.