It is 3:00 AM and you have been wakened out of a deep sleep. Breathing is not easy and the room is filled with smoke. There is a fire within your home. Getting your family out of the house is top priority. You get out of bed and run across the room toward the bedroom door. Stop!
This may seem to be the logical action to take, but logic has escaped you. The smoke that you are now breathing, adrenaline pumping, and toxins released by the fire will leave you disoriented. As the smoke fills your room, the chances of seeing beyond your hand stretched out in front of you becomes less and less.
How do you and your family survive this scenario? Your chances of survival increase, as you begin to understand the methods used by the firefighters as they enter a home on fire.
Entering your home they begin a systematic search, beginning on the left or right wall of the entrance. With their hands they feel the wall as they crawl along the floor. There are several reasons for this type of search.
- Smoke is thick and blinds everyone to what is in front of them.
- They risk tripping over furniture, down stairways, or other injuries if not proceeding carefully. An injured firefighter will not be able to help you or your family.
- If the home has a basement there is danger that the floor joists have burned through “floor burn out”. Placing their weight in the wrong place could result in falling through the floor to the basement.
How do these facts impact the decisions that you and your family make?
If firefighters begin their search against the wall, beginning your escape in the same way is recommended. Get out of bed and immediately move to the floor on your hands and knees. Begin crawling until you reach a wall. The air at that level will be easier to breathe.
Keep in mind that while you are in the process of crawling you may eventually come to an air vent. Most vents within homes are placed beneath windows. This should give you an immediate escape route. If you approach a door, before coming to a vent, it may also provide a way of escape.
In the event that you should pass out before escaping your home, crawling alongside the walls of your home creates a greater chance of being found. You will be in the path of those firefighters that are also crawling alongside the walls.
- A floor that has burned out is as dangerous for you and your family as it is for those that have come to the rescue.
This life saving information should be shared with as many people as possible. Most people assume that they will have the ability to find their way out of their home by walking through the middle of the room. This assumption is not one to live by.
- The disorientation that accompanies a smoke filled room can be deadly if someone is unaware that it can happen before hand and creates a plan of escape that takes this disorientation into account.
- Most people are unaware that a search will begin at the perimeter of the room.
- Many may not realize that finding a vent, could lead them to a window and therefore a way of escape.
Please share this article with family and friends. It may save a life.
The information in this article was gained through the Citizen Fire Academy, an educational program offered in St. Charles County by the Central County Fire and Rescue. This article is part of series of articles that will highlight fire safety and those who provide protection at the risk of their own lives.
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Read other articles in this series at the links below.