What to do in the case of fire

Hilary Anderson, MA, American Red Cross, shares advice on what to do if a home fire occurs in order to stay safe
What To Do In The Case Of Fire - Emergency Preparedness Tips
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What to do in the case of fire

If a home fire happens, the first thing and the hardest thing for me to say in my job--get out and stay out. Don't go back into a burning building for any reason--not for property, not for pets, not even for other people. The #1 injury from most home fires--it's not from burns--it's from smoke inhalation. You go back into that burning building, you inhale that toxic smoke, and you end up unconscious and needing assistance as well. The most important thing you want to do is get help there right away, and we'll talk about what you do when you get out. If you're in a burning building, "crawl low in smoke"--smoke rises, so we want to get down near that good clean air. Go toward your emergency exits--you should have two--and before you exit out of them, you want to test the door briefly with the back of your hand. What are you feeling for? Heat. Test the door first, the crack second, and the actual handle third--in that order because we don't always know how thick a door is, and that gives us the greatest chance of feeling heat. If you feel heat, don't go through that door; you want to test your second emergency exit. We crawl toward the second emergency exit, and we test again--door, crack, and then the door handle for heat. If it's good, you open up the door, look and see if there's flames, and crawl out safely. If both of those emergency exits are not options, this is the time for you to signal out for help. You want to cover your face--protect yourself from breathing in that toxic air. If you have anything you can stuff under the doors to keep the smoke from getting in, it's also a good idea. Signal out to emergency responders for help--if you have a bright cloth, anything that you can wave out the window, if you can open it up. If you do happen to catch on fire, we want you to "stop, drop, and roll." Do not run around--oxygen causes the flames to grow. Get down, drop and roll, and smother those flames. A good thing, if you happen to have a phone in the room--call 911; let them know where you are, what room you're in, what floor in the house or building that you're in. While you're on the phone with them, stay low to make sure that you're breathing in that good clean air. When I talked about get out and stay out--the first thing I want you to do is call 911. The #1 thing you tell them, besides the fact that there's a fire, is your location. If you're calling from a landline, that's great, but if you're calling from a cell phone, it can be traced to the closest cell tower, not necessarily your location--which means you want them to know exactly where you are. Tell them where you are, address first, then your name, your contact information--in case you get disconnected, they can call you right back--and any other relevant details that would be helpful for emergency responders to know--how many people were potentially in the building, your emergency exits, any safe haven locations--things that would help them get to those who need assistance right away.

Hilary Anderson, MA, American Red Cross, shares advice on what to do if a home fire occurs in order to stay safe


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Hilary Anderson, MA

American Red Cross

Hilary Anderson has been with the American Red Cross for the past three and a half years as a volunteer and staff member in positions with communications, disaster relief, development and volunteer services. As the Preparedness and Resiliency Manager, her primary responsibility is the delivery of educational programming across the Los Angeles region to get individuals, schools, businesses and organizations prepared for a disaster. As a dog owner, she also hopes to get your pets ready too! Hilary has a master’s degree in International Policy Studies with an emphasis in humanitarian assistance as well as a bachelor’s degree in International Relations, Journalism and German. She has worked for non-profits abroad in Israel, Bolivia and Germany focusing on grant writing, youth and education and also feeding and sheltering. 

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