How to Escape From a Burning Building


More than 800 fires strike residential buildings and homes each day in the United States. These fires cause an average of 6500 deaths, half from children and the elderly. Escaping from a burning building requires careful planning to prevent the panic and confusion that lead to entrapment.

  • Prepare for the possibility of a fire. Check fire alarms annually. Plan two escape routes from each room in the building: the door you normally use and an additional door or window.

  • Examine your escape route for obstacles. If your building contains security bars, the bars must be fitted with a quick release latch, requiring no tools to operate.

  • Crawl to the exit to prevent deadly smoke inhalation.

  • Touch all doors before opening them on your escape route. If a door feels hot, take an alternate route if it's available. If the hot door is your only means of escape, open it a crack and prepare to shut it if you face flames.

  • Include a fire escape plan for infants and young children too. If using a window exit, lower children before you lower yourself. You must emphasize to older children they should exit the building rather than hide in the closet or under the bed.

  • Establish a meeting place outside the building. This is especially important in home fires. You must not re-enter a burning building under any circumstances. Making special plans for those who need help exiting the building reduces the temptation to return inside to search for others.

  • Resist the urge to use an elevator to exit a multi-story building. The elevator could stop at the floor on fire, or could stall between floors. Familiarize yourself with the hallways, exits and lobby of the building so you can crawl to the nearest exit in the dark.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you have access to any sort of material to cover your face, use it--preferably if you can wet it down. Cover your nose and mouth as you crawl toward your exit. This helps reduce smoke inhalation.

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