Planning your escape route

January 21, 2010 3:19:15 PM PST
There is a lot of information about preventing fires, but what if you are in a burning building? How do you escape? Most victims of fires don't die from the flames, they die from the smoke and toxic gases created by the fire.

The Central Islip Fire Department uses a safety house to teach kids and adults what to do if there's a fire. The house shoots out smoke, heats up and gets very dark inside, mimicking the conditions of a fire.

They hope it's enough to prepare your family for dangerous fire.

"You have to practice this, because you're leaving your house in a dark environment," fire prevention officer Robert Sutton said. "It's not like you're leaving in the middle of the afternoon. You're crawling on your hands and knees. If you're in a fire, you can't see your hand in front of your face. It's dark and black."

Each and every second counts and could mean the difference between life and death.

Sutton walked through what you need to know, but simulating a fire with a test inside the fire safety house.

It begins with you being startled awake by the smoke alarm, telling you there's an emergency. The first thing you need to do is get as low to the ground as possible and move as quickly as you can.

Step 1: Knowing available escape routes.

There are two ways out of the bedroom in the simulation. The first is a door leading into the kitchen. The second is the windwo. First, try the door. Touch the nob. If it's hot, or if the door panel is hot, it is not a way to get out of the room.

Step 2: Feel for fire.

The second and last choice is the window. The smoke is overwhelming, so you have to have the presense of mind to still move quickly. Slide the window open and, as safely as possible, back out of the window and down the ladder. Of course, it can be scary, but you don't want to get hurt.

It's important to remember not to panic, which can cause confusion and lead to quick and irrational decisions.

Step 3: Call 911 and relay necessary information

Once you are out of the house, the first thing you need to do is call 911. You need to remember simple things like your address and what's going on at your home. Tell the operator there is a fire in your home and the location, and then verify the information.

Step 4: Don't go back into your home

At this point, you want to stay away from the building. You don't want to go back in the house. There is nothing worth your life inside.

Now, it's up to the firefighters to get there and put the fire out. The key, of course, are the seconds it takes to get out of your home.

"The most important thing is to prevent this from happening," Sutton said. "That means having adequate smoke detectors. One every level, and that they're current and up to date...There should be an escape plan that your family should practice monthly."

Another excellent tip is to keep your bedroom doors closed. Fire and oxygen go hand in hand, so with a good fire-rated door, the fire will take longer to eat through that door, giving you more time to get out alive.