From the shocking event in London to the tragic loss of life in Portugal, the past week has reminded us of how vulnerable we all are when it comes to fire.
The fear of being burnt is a natural and sensible fear for us to have. The human body and fire do not mix well. Smoke is a major killer. Human lungs cannot process the tiny particles in smoke, and our body needs oxygen in order to stay alive. Fire also uses oxygen, and this fact alone means we are in severe trouble when fire breaks out.
Ever since we learned more about how our lungs really work, and how dangerous fire can be, we have been taking measures to make things better for ourselves. Certainly we have come a long way from the days of flammable nightwear and smoking on airplanes. But if Grenfell Tower has taught us anything, it’s that when it comes to staying safe, we must to as much as we can to protect ourselves before we find ourselves in harm’s way.
What should you do if you find yourself in a fire?
Experts agree that the most important life saving measure you can take is to tell someone where you are. Call emergency services IMMEDIATELY. That 30 second call can be a life saver. If someone knows you are inside the fire, they can try and find you. Flames and smoke make it very difficult for rescuers to know who they are looking for or even if they should look.
If someone knows you are there, they know to look. Too many people die because of the simple fact that no one knew to check for them. Even now, as the death toll in London is not confirmed. Officials simply have no way of knowing just yet who was in the fire because some people didn’t tell anyone they were waiting for help.
Secondly, remember that heat and smoke rise. You must do what you can to stay BELOW the smoke. That’s why the cry ‘get down low and go, go, go” is taught to kids. Smoke inhalation kills. In fact if a fire breaks out you are more likely to die from the smoke than the flames. Crawl out of a fire. If you must run, hold your breath. DO NOT breathe in smoke. Cover your nose and mouth with a wet towel to act as a filter. You can survive for up to 3 minutes without breathing if you have to. That’s a long time in a fire.
Thirdly, always, ALWAYS, have an escape plan. Whether it’s when you stay in a hotel, travel in a plane, live in the house you were born in, drive the car to work, take a train to the shops, ALWAYS know where the nearest exit is, and how far away the next one is. It may seem a little paranoid to always be checking for an exit, but it’s just common sense.
Look at where you are right now. If something dreadful suddenly happened, how would you get away from where you are sitting? Are you upstairs? How will you get to the ground? Check this out.
This is a sky saver. It is a back pack that you keep in your flat that attaches to a pre-mounted wall socket and can be used to repel yourself down the side of a building. You just clip it on and go. They cost between $1200 usd and $1500 usd depending on the length they can descend, at the top end its 80 metres, or 260 feet. They can carry up to 120 kg, or about 260 pounds. It may seem a lot of money to fork out in, but given what we have seen in the news lately, it’s not a poor investment. They are available the world over at www.skysaver.com
Another very good investment is a fire blanket for the home, office, regular hiker or even in the car.
You can use a fire blanket to smother out a small fire by depriving it of oxygen, this is good for things like a pan on the cooker that is now on fire, or if someones clothes are alight. You can cover youself in a blanket and run through flames if you stay low and don’t have to run too far. Fire blankets vary in cost and size, but they can take up to 480 degrees celcius or 900 degrees fahrenheit. Once a fire blanket has been used, it should be thrown away. They are really only good one time, but they are easy to transport and carry, and should be kept in a handy place in your kitchen or anywhere a fire could break out. Pop one under the drivers seat of your vehicle, you never know when it could come in handy.
Finally, invest in an alarm system, if possible one that detects carbon monoxide as well as smoke, and check and change the batteries at least twice a year. It is ridiculous how many people buy and install detectors and then leave them alone. That’s like wearing sunscreen once and hoping it will hold you over for a year. Gas and smoke alarms save lives. When a fire is detected early you have a better chance of getting away from it. If you have a fire blanket handy, and an escape plan in place, you are giving yourself the best shot of getting out of a terrifying experience to tell the tale.
Don’t sit back and tell yourself that nothing like this can ever happen to you. Life is simply not that predictable and it is always better to be safe than sorry. Of course, we hope you will never have to use these tips, but if you do, it just might save your life.