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What Should You Do If a Fire Breaks Out in Your Home or Workplace?

This year, the nation was devastated with many incidents both major and minor involving fire, destruction and the loss of many lives!

Many helpless victims were unable to leave the area in time to save themselves and while many burnt to death, others jumped off to escape the torment of burning to death.

The many tragic fire incidents are nothing short of a wake-up call for us – people of Bangladesh to educate ourselves on this issue. We need to learn about all the fire safety for our homes and our workplaces to protect ourselves and others around us.

There is an age-old saying that “prevention is better than cure”.

Indeed, this is true!

Today, in this article, we will cover the crucial aspects of fire in two parts:

  • Part One: What to do when you have a fire break out in your home?
  • Part Two: What to do when you have a fire break out in your workplace?

In both scenarios, we will also discuss how to prevent fire incidents at your home or workplace, as well.

If we learn the many prevention methods, we can avoid such tragic accidents and we can help ourselves from its devastating results. It is equally important to prepare for such an event by knowing what to do in such situations to minimize the destruction, injuries, and casualties.

PART 1: What Should You Do If a Fire Breaks Out in Your Home?

When you notice the beginning of a fire breakout, immediately use a fire extinguisher to try to put it out before it catches on full fire or starts to spread. If there are no fire extinguishers available, then do NOT use water! This only worsens the situation for fires that start from electrical appliances or your cooker.

According to expert firefighters worldwide, there is a simple rule of thumb:

“When there is MINOR FIRE – ESCAPE… if there is THICK SMOKE – SHUT THE DOOR!

This may or may not be effective in a developing country such as Bangladesh, given our standard of buildings, etc. But it highlights the critical dangers of thick & smoky fires which is essential!

What to Do If Fire Starts Your Kitchen

If you are in your home and there is a fire starting from your kitchen while cooking, you should do the following, but remember to not panic and calm yourself & others around you:

  • Place a lid over the pan, dish, or cooker to cover the fire. This will make sure that the fire does not get the oxygen necessary to keep burning
  • Disconnect the cooker if it is electrical or turn off the gas connection
  • Avoid using water to put out kitchen fires at all times! This can cause an explosion and make the fire worse than it originally was
  • If you are unable to control the fire, then get your family members out of your home and exit the building without thinking of anything else

What to Do If Fire Starts in Your Home & You Are Trapped in a Room

  • Check to see how hot the doorknob is, if it is too hot to touch and there is heavy smoke coming from the other side of the door, then DO NOT open the door
  • Use any clothes, blankets, or towels to seal the door areas to block the smoke from getting inside as the smoke will suffocate you
  • If you have access to a phone then, immediately call the emergency number and your emergency friends or family contacts
  • Lay down on the floor and wait to be rescued from your room, if there is no way to get out
  • Use a wet cloth to breathe through it so that you are not breathing in toxic heavy smoke from the smoky fire
  • Listen carefully for emergency service persons or others who may be trying to find you
  • If you think someone is close by then make loud noises to get their attention and knock against the door, furniture or wall to help them locate you
  • Always leave doors unlocked so that the rescue team is easily able to get to you

What to Do If Fire Starts in a High-rise Building

If you live in a high-rise building, whether it is your apartment, hotel room, etc. then follow the following steps to ensure your safety when a fire breaks out:

  • If the fire is not in your unit, then try to find out where the fire is before doing anything else
  • Look out your windows to find the source of the fire or look for heavy smoke
  • If the smoke is from a unit above your unit, then quickly exit the building
  • If you notice there is smoke coming in through your door then make sure you check the temperature of the doorknob, before touching it or opening it
  • As you exit, remember to close all doors behind you
  • Use the fire exit to quickly exit the building and warn others as you do so
  • Report the fire to emergency services as soon as you are in a safe place

How to Prevent Fires at Home

The following are some very basic and essential things you can do to prevent a fire from breaking out in your home:

  • Use approved electrical & gas appliances from reputed manufacturers
  • Use alarm system such as smoke detectors
  • Have a fire extinguisher in your home
  • Keep an extra set of keys available at a dedicated place in your house
  • If you use grills in your window, make sure to get a latch exit which can be used for emergencies
  • Avoid using too many extension cords or multi-plugs for many appliances
  • Turn off lights, and appliances when not in use
  • Don’t leave laptops, computers, or phones in charge for long times
  • Routinely check electrical and gas lines in your homes as rats & cockroaches may damage them
  • Never leave kitchen stove unattended when on
  • Place flammable things like oil, kerosene, etc. away from the kitchen stove and electric points

It is common for almost every home in Bangladesh to use cylinder gas, as the primary source of gas or as an alternative source. In any case, most fires break due to the unsafe use of gas cylinders. Read about the Safe Use of Gas Cylinders to avoid harming yourself, your family, and your surroundings.

PART 2: What Should You Do If a Fire Breaks Out in Your Workplace?

Fire incidents at your workplace are potentially much more devastating than at a residence. This is not to say that residential fires are in any way less dangerous, but the potentially devastating effects of a fire in a commercial space are much more.

Not only is hundreds of businesses disrupted, but it causes a chain reaction that may take months or even years to recover financially. The economic progress of not just the particular businesses is halted, but also associated businesses, employees, families, and overall the national economy suffers.

Add to that the high likelihood of a greater number of casualties where more people are present at any given time during business hours. Due to this, a fire breaks out in your workplace or any commercial premises is much more devastating!

The dangers of fires in workplaces are more common due to the fact that businesses and organizations are not prepared. They do not prepare or have a serious lack in training their employees with instructions for such situations to save themselves and others around them.

REMINDER: Prevention is ALWAYS Better Than Cure!

It is extremely important for every individual, every family, every neighborhood, every business, every city, and overall, every government sector to remember that – prevention is better than cure!

Prevention is not only better – it is safer… quicker… and more economically feasible!

So, it is important for every business or organization to take appropriate prevention steps for dangers such as a fire breaking out. The following are just some of the few things to do:

  • Prepare a risk assessment action plan for different emergencies such as fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, flooding, loss of electricity, etc.
  • Schedule & routinely review fire and other risk assessment action plans
  • Cover every gap from the most recent risk assessment audit
  • Make all employees aware of all safety plans, procedures, equipment, and exit routes
  • Train specific individuals to lead groups of employees
  • Hold practice fire drills to test alarms, equipment, escape routes & other procedures

You will be surprised to know that almost every workplace, no matter how small or big, has specific safety measures and action plans. However, almost none of the staff will be aware of it!

It is important for employees to take initiative to learn these as well as, the responsibility of the employer to train and educate staff of all such safety measures, plans and procedures.

Let’s Look at the Basic 3-Step Procedure during a Workplace Fire:

Step 1 – Alarm… Alarm… Alarm!!!

Whether you are in a country like Bangladesh, or in the United States of America, the importance of a fire alarm is extremely underrated!

It is important for everyone at a workplace or commercial area to be fully aware of how to trigger an alarm in case of an emergency. Regardless of the small or big scale of an incident, an alarm should be used. This ensures that fire services are made aware as soon as possible and are able to start their journey to the place of incidence immediately.

Using the alarm is simply to notify everyone in the surroundings to take necessary steps to secure themselves as an emergency has been signaled. Part of raising an alarm is to notify the appropriate emergency service provider such as the Fire & Rescue Service using an emergency number including the exact location and as much detail about the incident as possible.

In case of small fires, appropriate equipment such as fire extinguishers should be used to take the necessary measures to resolve the issue. However, if it is not done in the proper way, this can sometimes lead to causing more damage.

So, it is necessary to have trained individuals to take necessary actions as they have been trained to do. Also, they should lead others through the escape route as laid out in the action plan and secure all areas within your workplace.

Step 2 – Evacuate Your Workplace

Many employees undermine the evacuation or escape plan of their respective workplaces. It is important that employees are not too calm to ignore evacuation and calm enough to not cause panic. Evacuation is best done calmly and promptly.

Before evacuation, it is important to take notice of your surroundings and securing all potentially hazardous things such as shutting down machinery, closing doors & windows but not locking them, rescuing others from remote areas, etc.

However, refrain from collecting all your personal belongings, as this makes it difficult to exit the workplace with all of your colleagues. Also, avoid using lifts and use the staircase at all times. If you notice anyone panicking, then do your best to calm them down. But it is important to keep yourself calm, first.

Step 3 – Gather at Safety Point

Every workplace should have a designated safety point for their employees to go to in case of all emergencies and all staff should be aware of it. After raising an alarm and evacuating the building, it is recommended for everyone to gather at the designated safety point.

The safety point should be at a fair distance to your workplace building, and it should be an easy location for emergency service vehicles, etc. to come for medical or other services. Once everyone is at the safety point, it is suggested to take a count of all staff, or each department to identify if someone is missing. In such a way, emergency fire fighters can be made aware of potential rescue missions.

Hopefully you never have to face the next step… Step 4 – Stuck in Your Workplace during a Fire

In the unfortunate scenario where you are unable to exit the building or follow the escape route to the safety point with your colleagues, you shall remain calm.

If you are on a lower floor, like the 1st or 2nd floor, then you can open a window and lower yourself and then use basic balance to drop down to the floor outside. Never jump straight out of a window, as you can injure yourself by breaking an arm or a leg with a bad fall.

If you are on a higher floor such as 3rd or 4th and you have to use the window to jump out, then try to climb down to a lower floor if possible. Then through some soft materials down to land on before you jump off, to minimize injuries from the fall.

If you are any higher than you should try to be around the window area, and wait for emergency services to rescue you. Close the room door and seal all areas with cloths, etc. to prevent the smoke from building up, as you wait to be rescued.

If your clothes or any part of you catches on fire, then do not run as this will only help the fire flames to grow. Remember to stop, drop & roll!

Meaning, you should immediately stop moving, drop to the floor, and roll around to smother the flames.

Final Thoughts

Fire is an extremely dangerous issue!

Given the recent incidents in Dhaka city and other parts of Bangladesh, we are not prepared as we should be to deal with such circumstances in our homes and workplaces.

No one wants to lose a thing, let alone a life because of a fire. But instead of hoping this never happens to us, we need to educate ourselves on how to prevent and deal with such difficult situations.

Hopefully, this article was able to educate you on the importance of training and preparing our homes and workplaces for fire hazards and safety procedures.

You can browse through for fire safety equipment such as fire alarms, smoke detectors, masks, fire extinguishers, etc. for securing your home and workplace.

Never underestimate the devastating effects of fire and prepare not only yourself, but your friends, families and colleagues on how to deal with fire hazard.

Be safe & be prepared!

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