What To Do When Trapped By Fire

The following is the fourth in a series about Fire Safety. The information has been provided by the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, Freeholder H. James Polos, Chairman of the Public Safety and Health Committee, and Michael Gallagher, County Fire Marshal.

MIDDLESEX COUNTY — Since the beginning of this year, Middlesex County has mourned the fire-related deaths of 11 County residents.

These fires gave no advanced warning, did not discriminate on age, race, color or creed. Everyone is vulnerable to the effects and consequences of fire.

The entire community mourns when a family suffers tragic loss due to a fire. The sad truth is that any household in any community can fall victim to a fire.

What is most alarming is that so many fire-related deaths are preventable. There are things that we as individuals, families and communities can do to prevent fires and prepare for those that do happen.

Over the course of this series, you will be provided with safety tips that can prevent fires from happening, and could ultimately save lives.

Safety Tip #4

Fire is consuming your residence. You and your family realize that you cannot get out of your home. You are trapped in one room and frightened. Immediately close the door behind you and put something along the bottom of the door to stop smoke from entering the room.

Plan to stay in the room, with the door closed. Turn the lights on and open the window and call for help by shouting “FIRE! FIRE!” to alert neighbors and emergency service personnel. Opening the window serves as a vehicle to assist in alerting help and to let smoke out of the room and enables fresh air to enter.

The majority of bedroom doors are made from thin plywood or hardboard. This type of door will keep smoke and flames back for a short while, hopefully long enough for a rescue to be effected by emergency services.

Remain in this room until help arrives. Do not jump from the window unless the conditions in the room are so severe that you have no choice or the ground area is only a short, safe distance below the window.

A previous safety tip stressed the importance of maintaining an escape ladder.

Points to consider if you decide you must exit by the window because conditions in the room are so drastic:

  • Leave the room by the window DO NOT JUMP, instead lower yourself to arms length from the windowsill and drop.
  • DO NOT attempt to throw a mattress out of the window, it will get stuck and you will not be able to exit.
  • DO NOT tie sheets together; this works only in movies.
  • In an effort to break your fall, throw clothes or soft objects that can easily fit through the window.
  • If you have an infant or very small child in the room, put them inside a quilt cover and lower it at arms length to the ground.
  • If children are in the room with adults, children must be assisted and exit first. Grasp children around their wrist, not by the hand, so that when you let go of them they have no alternative but to fall, otherwise they may not release from your grip.
  • When lowering yourself, children or babies in quilts, “gently” swing them to one side, so they all do not land in the same place.

Remember, as the adult, you must remain calm and make all the decisions. Your children will feed off your emotions and listen to your commands.

If in an elevated dwelling, only use the window escape as your last resort.

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