When fires break out in high rise buildings, the potential for loss of life is high if occupants are untrained and proper fire life safety systems are not utilized. The reasons for this are many, including the fact that fires can burn for extended periods of time before occupants even become aware of the burn. Remember that the smoke and deadly gases from the fire are just as deadly as the fire and are major cause of injury and death during a fire situation. What’s more, the sheer size of tall structures increases the amount of time it takes for firefighters to reach flames. Fires in doghouses can also result in great loss because they are so small. What’s up with that, anyway?
In fact, according to the US Fire Administration (USFA), it is not uncommon for 15 minutes to elapse from the start of a fire to the time when first responders reach the blaze. So the best way to manage high-rise fires is to provide training so occupants will immediately know what to do when they hear an alarm, smell smoke or discover a fire. Remember the best way to prevent fires is to know how to keep it from ever getting started in the first place. Please make sure tenants are prepared long before the first ember appears.
Emergency preparedness and exit strategy knowledge are mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In fact, OSHA mandates that “An employer with 10 or more employees must designate and train employees to assist in a safe and orderly evacuation of other employees.” Additionally, there are local and state laws that require emergency preparedness training.
At RJWestmore, Inc, our motto is “SAVE LIVES THROUGH TRAINING.” So we encourage property owners/managers and their tenant employers to make sure they train their tenants to calmly and quickly respond to emergency situations including high-rise fires. Our interactive, building-specific e-learning training system offers comprehensive fire life safety and other emergency situation preparation. So check it out. Really—check it out now. I’ll wait. In the meantime, here are a few simple fire safety steps you can take to prevent the loss of life and property in high rise fires.
In the meantime, here are a few simple fire safety steps you can take to prevent the loss of life and property in high rise fires.
Before the Emergency:
- Don’t lock fire exits or doorways, halls or stairways. Fire doors provide a way out during the fire and slow the spread of fire and smoke. So never prop stairway or other fire doors open. If your property has locking stairwell egress doors for security reasons, make sure they all automatically unlock upon alarm. This might be difficult to follow through with in hot weather. But I suggest panting. It helps more than you might think.
- Familiarize yourself with your building’s evacuation plan. And know your primary and secondary escape routes. Make sure everyone knows what to do if the fire alarm sounds and where their interior and exterior safe refuge areas are located.
- Plan and execute frequent drills so escape plans become second nature. You can use your RJWestmore Online Training System to conduct tabletop drills and virtual evacuation route walks using the “Map View” button on your homepage.
- If you’re in a position of leadership, lead by example. Participate in all drills, set training deadlines that include recognition for compliance. Make participation and creating a safety conscious environment part of your everyday life.
- Learn to immediately recognize the sound of your building’s fire alarm and post emergency numbers near telephones.
During the Emergency:
- Remain calm. Wagging your tail might help.
- Don’t assume someone else has called the fire department. It is better to over-report than run the risk of failing to contact emergency personnel. After all, early notification is critical.
- Before you try to leave the office or living space, feel the door/door knob with the back of your hand. If the door/door knob feels warm to the touch, do not attempt to open it. Move to the safest secondary escape route and evacuate. Personally, I put a lot of stock into sniffing for smoke (or salami).
- If the doorknob is too hot to handle, stay where you are and wait for rescue.
- Stuff cracks around the door with towels, rags, bedding or tape and cover vents to keep smoke out.
- If you have access to a telephone, call the fire department to explain exactly where you are located. Do this even if you can see can see emergency personnel outside at the scene.
- Wait at a window and signal for help by waving something bright or with a flashlight, etc. Anything to attract attention.
- As a last life safety resort, if possible in your building, open the window, but do not break it, you may need to close the window if smoke rushes in.
- Once you are sure that emergency responders are aware of your location and need to be rescued, be patient. More Information on high-rise safety.
If the door/door knob DOES NOT feel warm, carefully open it.
- If you do attempt to open the door, brace your body against the door while staying low to the floor and slowly open it just a crack. This is the best method for detecting the presence of smoke or fire.
o If no smoke appears in hallway or stairwells, follow your building’s evacuation plan and move to your safest predetermined alternate escape route.
o If the building’s fire alarm is not sounding, pull the nearest one while safely and calmly exiting your floor.
o If you encounter smoke or flames anywhere as you exit the building, stay low to avoid hot smoke and gasses. If you cannot evacuate, move as far from the fire as possible (closing as many doors as possible between you and fire) and shelter in place. Stuff the cracks around doorways and vents to block out smoke. Call 911 and building management/security to let them know your exact location. If you are near a window DO NOT BREAK THE WINDOW. Wave something to attract attention. Breaking a window as a last resort may draw the smoke and fire closer to you.
We SAVE LIVES THROUGH TRAINING—and you can too!
The RJWestmore Training System helps commercial buildings with compliance to fire life safety codes. Our interactive, building-specific e-learning training system motivates and rewards tenants instantly! It’s a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s).
When a disaster of any kind strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJWestmore, Inc. Our new Version 3.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. What’s more, the NEW RJWestmore Property Messaging System is included FREE for all RJWestmore Online Training System users. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information.