Fires can cause great damage and put people’s lives at risk. It’s important to know what to do if a fire breaks out in your home, workplace or a public space. Being prepared could help save lives.
Fire prevention is the best way to keep your family and co-workers safe, but if a fire breaks out, knowing the fire safety procedures can help you act quickly and stay safe. Follow the steps below in a fire emergency.
Treat every alarm as an emergency
If you hear a fire alarm, you should treat it as an emergency every time. Don’t assume it’s someone burning their toast or a false alarm. If you hear an alarm, you should exit the building as quickly and safely as possible.
Raise the alarm
If you are the first person to notice a fire, raise the nearest alarm immediately. You should not underestimate any fire as fires can get out of control quickly.
If it is safe to do so, call emergency services straight away and tell them the size, location and nature of the fire. For example, whether it was caused by electrical wires, chemicals, compressed gases etc.
Put out the fire if possible
If the fire has just started in your vicinity, you may be able to put it out with a fire blanket or fire extinguisher. Only attempt to put out a fire if it is safe to do so, is still in its beginning stages and will not block your exit if you fail to put it out.
How to use a Fire Blanket
Fire blankets can be used to put out small fires. Unroll the blanket and hold it in front of you, with your hands tucked behind to protect them. Lay – do not throw – the blanket over the fire and leave there for at least 15 minutes. Call 000 if you could not put out the fire.
How to use a Fire Extinguisher
Choose the right type of fire extinguisher for the type of fire. For example, a water extinguisher should not be used on electrical fires.
Pull the pin from the top of the extinguisher and aim the nozzle at the fire. Squeeze the handles together to release the extinguishing agent. Move the nozzle side to side across the fire.
Stay low to the ground
Fires produce smoke and toxic gases which can cause loss of consciousness. Smoke and toxic gases tend to rise upwards, so the best way to avoid them is to crawl along the ground towards your nearest exit. Keeping your hand on the wall may help you stay orientated.
Feel doors for heat
Before opening any doors, check if there is smoke coming beneath the door or if the door is hot to touch. If either of these things happen, it could indicate that fire is on the other side of the door. Do not open the door in this case.
Close doors behind you if safe to do so
Closed doors can slow down the spread of fire by compartmentalising the building. If you are the last person to go through a door towards a safe place, close the door behind you if safe to do so. Also close windows if safe to do so.
Make your way to a safe area
Make your way to a safe area away from the building as quickly as possible. If the emergency is at a public or commercial space, follow the fire emergency plan and listen to the instructions of any fire officers.
Call for emergency help
Once you are in a safe place, call 000 for emergency fire assistance. If you don’t have your phone on you, go to the nearest home, office or shop and call from there.
What if you are trapped inside?
If you are trapped inside a room because fire is on the other side of the door, place a wet towel at the base of the door to stop smoke from coming in.
Look for a window to the outside where emergency services can see you. Only open the window if you need to take a breath as the oxygen can fuel the fire.
What to do if your clothes catch fire?
If your clothes catch on fire you should STOP, DROP and ROLL. Stop where you are, drop to the ground and roll on the ground to put out the fire. Cover your face with your hands to protect it.
What should you take with you in a fire evacuation?
You should evacuate as quickly as possible if there is a fire in your building. You should leave your belongings and get to a safe place swiftly.
If the fire is not a direct threat to your home or workplace immediately, but you are required to evacuate, you may have time to gather a small number of items. If you live in a bushfire prone area, make sure you always have an emergency kit ready to grab and go.
In an emergency kit, you should take your ID with you, your phone, wallet, important documents and any medication you might need.
How to prevent fires at home and in the workplace
The best protection is prevention. It’s important that homes and workplaces are equipped with up-to-date fire protection systems. A range of active protection such as alarms and fire extinguishers are essential, as are passive fire control systems.
Passive fire solutions such as fire rated windows and fire doors in Australia should meet the regulations outlined in the Building Code of Australia. These should be regularly inspected to ensure they meet Australian Standards.
You should also have a fire emergency plan that occupants and visitors of the building are aware of. Workplaces should provide regular fire safety training for their staff. Don’t be caught off guard in an emergency. Being prepared can help save lives.