In case of fire, call 911, then get out — if you can do so safely
By Matt Hanley firstname.lastname@example.org May 16, 2011 6:04PM
Updated: June 18, 2011 12:33AM
In the wake of the Sunday morning blaze that killed six people in Aurora, Deputy Fire Chief John Lehman made some recommendations on what to do if you find yourself in a fire.
If a fire starts in your apartment or home, your first reaction should be to call 911, Lehman said. Do not attempt to extinguish a fire before alerting authorities. Do not assume someone else made the call. Give the operator your address, especially if you are calling from a cell phone.
If a smoke detector sounds, Lehman said the top priority is to get out of the building in the safest, fastest and easiest manner possible. Do not assume it is a drill or a false alarm. First, check the door of your building, by placing the back of your hand against the top of the door.
If it is unsafe to go outside, it will be immediately obvious, Lehman said. One resident who survived Sunday’s fire on Claim Street had burn marks on the back of his hand from testing the door. If you open a door when the fire is that hot, flames and smoke can rush in so quickly, you will not be able to close the door.
If the door is not warm, open it cautiously and survey the hallway. If there is an exit that is not blocked by debris or fire, exit as fast as possible, Lehman said. Leave the building and stand a safe distance away.
If the door is warm, or you find your exit obstructed, close the door tight. If you have time, place sheets or clothing at the base of the door. Stay low and choose one window to go to. Don’t open every window in the house, Lehman said.
Open the window, but continue to stay low. Do anything possible to get the attention of firefighters. In Sunday’s fire, some people hung sheets out the window to indicate someone was living in that apartment.
Do not jump out of the windows unless you feel that it is absolutely necessary. Use any means possible to soften the fall. When they arrive, firefighters will work to contain the fire from spreading and remove people in immediate danger. Other rescues will be done as possible and as necessary.
And, of course, prior to the fire, residents need to do regular checks of smoke detectors. The city inspects smoke alarms in common areas of apartment buildings, but checks in individual apartments are left to residents. Although some batteries in alarms last five to 10 years, the batteries should still be checked every month or so, Lehman said.