While fires are always something to worry about in high-rise buildings, NFPA regulations are pretty strict and well-enforced. And you’d probably surprised to learn that the number of deaths per one thousand fires is actually lower in high rises than it is in smaller, more ‘normal’ sized structures.
The reasons for that are numerous and usually has to do with there simply being more fire protection equipment present – but even in spite of all that, it’s important to know what to do in the event of a fire at a high-rise, whether it’s a place of work or your place of residence.
We advise people to follow a simple acronym. It’s called CALM. Here’s how it works:
C – Call 911 and report the fire from a safe spot on your floor immediately.
A – Alert others on your floor in a calm manner. Ask them if they know the safety plan, what to do and how you can help each other.
L – Listen for important information from fire officials. For example, most buildings have public address systems. When firefighters give you instructions, follow them to the ‘t’. Sometimes the fire department may ask you to evacuate a specific way or may even ask you to remain in one place. Listen and act.
M – If you can, move in the direction the fire department tells you.
Now granted, not all of this is applicable in every situation – but it’ll help give you your own general guidepost about what to do in the event of a fire. The decision as to whether you’ll be evacuated or whether you can shelter in place will depend entirely on the makeup of the building, the fire event itself, the number of people present… lots of things.
If you are asked to evacuate
Then, you should always use the stairs to leave the building. NEVER use the elevator unless you are directed to by fire officials. Also never go up unless directed to. Smoke, fire and heat rise, and fires generally move up in high rises, not down. And finally, stay low. Again, smoke and fire rises, so the cooler, more breathable air will be below.
If they ask you to sit tight and shelter in place
Stuff towels (preferably wet towels in doors and vents to keep smoke out and then let the fire department know exactly where you’re at in the building. Open your window slightly and have a bright cloth or marker to signal to firefighters who may not be in the know where you are specifically.
Also, be careful with windows. Don’t break them because you can get cut. Don’t open them too much as they’ll attract flames and even be open to the idea of closing them if the smoke becomes too much.
Most importantly – stay calm and do whatever you can to communicate with the fire department. Getting you and others out of a building in a fire can take time. They will come and they will help you.
In the meantime, be sure you know where your fire exits are, have a working plan for escape and follow your employers or landlord’s fire safety plan. Until next time, stay safe!