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Great reminder. This is something a lot of people will not think about unless they have been in a fire situation before. I hate mass transit, but there will be times I will be forced to use it. The people in this case were luckly, the smoke was not that bad. In many situations, it will be black billowing smoke that will blind you as well as choke you.

Opening the door is not always the best thing to do, it may allow MORE smoke in.

Good article to make people think.

1,086 Posts
Fire is one of the things where I'm preparing for, because it is one of the most possible situation for me. I don't have to worry to be trapped in fire (I don't use underground transportation's and our buildings aren't that large/tall at all and so on) but I'm very worry about fires and how to escape them.... And how to fight them in certain cases.

Remember guys that most of the gasses go up (as heat will!) You not only get more poisonous gasses while standing up, but heat might be too much as well if you try to standing up.
So in case of fire, going down to floor and crawling out isn't bad idea at all... (at least do not breath while standing up! you don't smell or see carbon monoxide. It is silent killer!)

And about those doors and windows.
Generally it is good to keep them closed. You do not let smoke in that easily, but you also don't give more air for the fire(at least in certain cases)... So closing doors and windows might buy you some more time to escape and "slow" burning down. (I'm not native English speaker, so these words have to do.)

And if door are closed and you want to go through it, you want to feel if the door is hot before opening it... There is change that room is totally closed and low of air while still burning... And when you open that door, you let air in and fire can burst violently out.

Because this is in urban section I have to say that in apartment buildings, learn your local building and how to behave in case of fire!
Here, every apartment is separated section and if one apartment is on fire, it don't spread that easily in another one. So people are more safe when they locked in and wait for the fire department to come help.
Most of the deaths here happens, when people try to escape from their homes and they breath gasses in the hallway...

There is tons of things what would be nice to tell, but these are good starters. :) It isn't bad idea to learn phases of fires and when you can try to fight back and when fire is too big and you must just to get out and call the fire department.

If somebody are more concerned about fires, it could be good to invest for one of those "escape hoods" what filter poisonous gases out of the air in some period of time..
I don't own one of those because in most of the possible situations (for me) I just can hold my breath long enough to get outside. (1-2 minutes are enough in most cases for me.)
And if I cannot hold my breath, there are some improvised air containers what can give me (max!) 1-2 minutes of extra air... (basically anything what can trap air inside and where from you can breath... Some firefighters talk even how you can get couple breath worth of air inside of your jacket.)
And if nothing else, I can use crawling and breath holding combined with cloth over my mouth (wet cloth if water is available.)

I talk a lot about breath holding, but I worked in metal/machine industry and time at time, poisonous gasses/fumes were presented. People wanted protective gear, but we were short of those... So holding breath was a life saver for us... So I'm used to hold my breath and walking/working while doing so and I do it even unconsciously in certain situations.. So this trick work for me pretty well.

there is good to have a plan and back up plan and plan for that back up plan. In home, you can be very well prepared against fires (and how to put them out!) but while travelling, your options are more limited. Escape hood would be very nice thing to have, but I go with the cloth, breath holding and escape tactics.
I always pay attention how to get out fast, I usually are in well ventilated large/open places only and can just walk out in matter of 1-2 minutes. (lucky me!)

And some ending words. Remember that most of the victims don't burn to death, They breath gasses and get killed because of that.
This situation (in top post) is one of good reminder about that. In that situation I would be going prone and breathing through wet cloth and waiting for further instructions as minimum (if it seems that anything isn't on fire and escaping could be more dangerous than staying!) If employers don't give any instructions in matter of seconds or know what the situation is, I would trying to get that information from somebody.
What is the situation? Where is the fire? How long we are waiting in there? Is it safer to lock in metro or trying to walk out of there and if emergency number is called and so on...
If we are waiting inside of metro, I would be wanting to know if we can stop ventilation, close possible doors and windows and so on... Stop gasses to leaking in. It would be also nice to know if there is fire extinguisher and medical kit nearby and for worst case, where to run if needed.
In case of metro, It would be anyway nice to know if traffic is stopped already or not.

776 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
True story.

In the mid 90's my employer had an office on the 31st floor of a building in downtown Seattle. I was in the office late one afternoon, went to leave at about 5:30pm, and the elevators weren't working. I walked back into the office and heard sirens. I looked out and down and saw several fire trucks arriving out front. No fire alarms were ringing on our floor, and no warning had been given. I called building Security, and they told me there was a small fire on the 20th floor and not too worry. Ah, yeah OK...

I alerted the others still there. It took us almost 20 minutes to walk down the stairs from the 31st floor to ground level. There was nothing blocking us and we were moving at a steady pace.

Think about that next time you are in a tall building. You'll need at least 30 seconds per floor to get out. You might even take the stairs and see how long it takes you to get down and out in an optimal situation (no smoke, no obstacles, no one moving slow in front of you).

1,086 Posts
I sometimes take time from weird things... I went through the hypermarket in 7 minutes last week. Started timing after I walked from the doors and stopped timing when I was out of the doors again... It was very fast shop trip indeed... But that was one of the biggest market in this area and I had to even wait in the line.
If that building would be on fire, how long it would be taking me to get out? If I can see everything ahead of me, probably 1-3 minutes (We are rural country so no masses of panicking people to block my route!) If there is darkness, make it at least 5... and more likely even 10. If I have to crawl out, make it 10-20 in most favor situation.

How fast that building is going to be non breathable hellhole after fire? even while i'm in the ground? (small house will be in 5 minutes pretty hellhole already...)
If lights are on and fire alarm is ringing early, I can just walk out there. If I smell the smoke and lights are still on, I still very likely manage to get out of there easily... It is very open space after all. I bet that as long as that shop isn't filled with smoke I have pretty good chance to get out!

If we talk about worst case scenario, I'm surely going to die on there, because 20 minutes are way too long! (And that 20 can turn even 40 to 80 minutes easily while confused and adding couple wrong turns...)
Luckily, here we test our systems regular and alarms are automatic and fast... And even if they fail, I probably smell the smoke well before worst case scenario!

If my apartment start burning, I can get out of here less than 30 seconds. For to sake of safety, lets make it 2 minutes. After that, I have to go through the hallway what can take anything up to 15 minutes in total darkness... Without darkness and while using stairs, it take only 2-3 minutes to get out.
But In the real life, I probably have all the time (and air) what I need... (I have 4 smoke alarms in this small apartment...) And lights aren't going to go out, or hallway don't going to be filled with smoke... And even if lights are out, I have flashlight always with me (half of the year this country is pretty dark, so I don't be far away from flashlights ever.)

But once again, in the worst case scenario, I don't manage to get out of my apartment even, because that dam safety lock what I have to open.
Many things can go wrong.
If some other apartments are on fire, Best what I can do for my own survival is sit on my apartment and wait for firefighters. In worst case, I have to use rope to descent from window... And that can go wrong so many ways...

Btw, I can hold my breath up to 4 minutes, but I'm used to walk and hold only 2 minutes at time.
So my plan is to use this only for last effort when everything else fail. First effort is go down and crawl out. I practice this time at time in total darkness... I have been studying how firefighters do that too. This is good tactics because in reality, even if you would pass out while standing, there is probably good air on the ground level.
Breath holding work mainly for running out/through of smoke filled room/house and other tasks like that what don't take serious time...

If we talk about bigger buildings, they are more labyrinths than anything else, you can more easily get lost and it easily take some serious time to get out... So it is best to leave very early to increase your chance for survival.
There is also other things... I remember from news one fire where people started panicking and they rushed toward "exit"... In reality that exit was toilet and many people died there because they didn't manage get out when everybody pushed there with panic... Masses can be big killer many ways and before you manage to get out of the fire, it probably are in sake of your own survival, best get out of the masses first!

2,582 Posts
The one thing I haven't read in the article or mentioned here is how the heat of the fire - alone - can sear your lungs and suffocate you. And, it would only take one breath.
So, even if you managed to escape the fire, you would still die.
This is another and probably the most important reason why you stay low and crawl out of a fire.
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