It’s the worst case scenario. Your house in on fire, and everyone is home. It’s too big to put out, so your first priority is now getting out safely. Do you know what to do?

Get Out if You Can

Get up right away and try to get out. Do not waste time trying to collect items and belongings. You may have only a few precious seconds to escape. Things are replaceable, but you are not. If there are others in the room or house with you, call out their names to make sure they are awake and aware of the hazard.

As you are making your escape, keep these things in mind:

  • Before opening a door, check to see if there is smoke coming out from under it or if the door and handle are very warm or hot. If either of these are true, do not open the door. Keep it closed and find another route.
  • If there is smoke in the air, get as low as you can and keep your nose close to the floor. Smoke is poisonous and inhaling enough of it can knock you unconscious or kill you. Most deaths from home fires are not caused by burning but by smoke poisoning.
  • Open only the doors that you need to and close the doors you can to slow the spread of the fire.
  • If you are escaping with others, try to stay together.

Make sure you and your family are familiar with where fire escapes are (if you live in a high rise apartment) or your fire escape plans (if you live in a house).

Your Clothes Catch Fire

Maybe something lands on you as you’re walking to the exit or you brush a little too close to some flames that surprised you. Your clothes catch fire.

As soon as you notice, you need to stop running or moving forward. Running around will only fan the flames and make it worse. Stop, drop, and roll. Flames burn upwards, so the longer you stay standing, the closer they get to your face and head. Lie down and roll around to try to smother the flames. If there is a heavy coat or blanket that you could drape over you, use it; that will help to smother the flames as well.

You’re Trapped

All of your potential escape routes are blocked, and you can’t get out.

Look around for any windows that you could potentially go through. We do not recommend going out any windows that are not on the ground floor. If you are on a higher floor, it’s a better bet to try to slow the fire than to try to jump out of windows. On the ground floor, if you can open the window, try to go through it. If it’s a bit of a jump, throw bedding or cushions onto the ground to break your fall. If you can’t open the window, try breaking it with a heavy object. Aim for the bottom corner of the window. Cover jagged edges with clothes or blankets so that you don’t scratch yourself when getting out.

If there are no windows that you can get out of, try to slow the progression of the fire. Close all the doors and stuff cushions, towels, and bedding at the bottom of the doors to block smoke. If you are on a higher floor and can open the window, do so and use it to get attention and call for help.

You Made it Out

Do a headcount to check that everyone who should be out is out. When the firefighters arrive, tell them if there is anyone missing. Do not go back into the house under any circumstances. Wait a safe distance away from the building for the fire to be put out. If you tell the firefighters that there is someone still inside, they will be able to find them and get to them much more quickly than you can. If you go back into the house, it gives firefighters another person to find, slows down their search for anyone else, and it puts your life in danger.