First and foremost, DON'T PANIC. The greatest tragedies occur when people panic and are unable to decide what to do. Knowing a few simple rules ahead of time will avoid tragedy when the emergency occurs.
The golden rule in all cases is: IF YOU ARE IN A BURNING STRUCTURE, GET OUT IMMEDIATELY. Do NOT try to save valuables, get extra clothing, or report the fire from the same building. Once outside, NEVER GO BACK IN, FOR ANY REASON. The greatest risk (and cause of loss of life) is when people re-enter a burning structure, often to attempt a rescue of someone else or a pet, or to obtain valuables. Fire is a fast-moving and deceptive phenomenon, and if you are caught inside, you will most likely perish, along with anyone else (and your mission will still be unaccomplished). NEVER GO BACK IN! If there is someone trapped and visible at a window, attempt to reach them from outside. Be prepared to tell arriving responders where trapped persons or pets are, and forget the valuables (items can be replaced, people cannot).
Once outside, go immediately to a neighbor's house and dial 9-1-1.Tell the call-taker that you are reporting a fire, and YOUR address. Remember, you are calling from a different house, so 9-1-1 sees the neighbor's address, not yours. Tell them what is burning (your house, a car, a shed, etc). Also tell them if anyone else may be still inside, and where they may be located (upstairs bedroom, basement, etc.). If you come upon a fire somewhere else, know where you are when you call. This is especially important if you are calling from a wireless phone.
If you become trapped in a fire, remember-DON'T PANIC. You have a small amount of time to think and take steps to give yourself enough time to survive until rescue arrives.
- Close all doors between you and the fire.
- If there is a phone in your room, dial 9-1-1. Tell them your address, that you are trapped inside a fire, and where in the structure you are located. Do NOT hang up the phone, 9-1-1 will stay on the line with you until rescue arrives.
- Seal the bottom of the door between you and the fire with sheets, rags, rugs, or anything to prevent smoke from coming in. If there is a window, remain near the window, and when you see the fire department, scream or do whatever is necessary to attract their attention; they'll be looking for you.
- Always have and practice an escape plan from your house, and especially have a meeting place outside away from the house where everyone knows to stay after they get out.
- If you are still inside, remain as low to the floor as possible, as this is where deadly smoke and flames will go last.
- Fire prevention is better than fire extinguishing. Practice effective fire safety, including having working smoke detectors, good electrical wiring, keep kitchen appliances clean, and NEVER smoke in bed. Your local fire department has these and many other fire safety tips they would be glad to share with you!