What is it that would prevent a person from being able to escape from a burning building? There are many answers to this question, so I will attempt to speak about as many reasons as possible, while hoping that you, the reader, will think through this issue. Becoming a fire-related injury or fatality statistic means it is too late, so take the time to think about fire safety in a proactive way.
Impairment of any type is something that could prevent your escape from a burning building. Impairment can be defined in many ways and has many causes. It could be that you have just had surgery, or are taking a medication that has debilitating side effects. You might just be in bed sick, but because of the toll that the illness has taken, you are unable to wake up quickly, or walk. You may have decided to drink an excessive amount of alcohol, which impairs thinking and physical ability. Another impairing factor could be smoke and its effect on your body. You could be elderly and lack mobility without someone’s assistance. Whatever your impairment is caused by, you will need a few things to get out of a burning building. One thing that you may need is the help of someone else. Another thing that will help is an adequate number of working smoke alarms so that you can be notified in the earliest stages of the fire.
Unfamiliarity with the building that you are in at the time of the fire will hinder your escape. How many of you have gotten lost in a building, simply because of its size or configuration? You should look for the location of the exits, every time you enter a building. Could your house ever become an unfamiliar dwelling? I say yes. Put a fire and smoke in your house and it will immediately become unfamiliar. Have you ever attempted to walk through your home with your eyes closed? Have you ever attempted to crawl around in your house with your eyes closed? How about doing both of those when you cannot breath. Remember, smoke initially rises, and you may be able to escape with pretty clear visibility if you crawl under the smoke.
Though this could have fit in the impairment paragraph, I decided to address it by itself. Becoming intimately involved with the fire and fire by-products will hinder your escape. In other words, you are in the room where the fire starts. Maybe you are cooking and a pan of grease catches fire. Instead of covering the pan with a top, you incorrectly attempt to remove the pan from the kitchen, causing you to get burned or for your clothing to catch on fire. Either way, your escape is now hindered. Once you cover the pan, leave it alone, get everyone out and call 9-1-1. Smoke inhalation will impair your thinking. Firefighters have been killed due to the effects of smoke inhalation, so what do you think your chances will be? And by the way, if your clothes catch on fire, Stop, Drop and Roll.
Even though you might not be suffering the effects of being burnt by the fire, or smoke inhalation, you may still be hindered from escaping because of the fire’s location. In other words, the fire is blocking your normal way out of the building. What will you do? You are on the second, third, fourth or forty-fourth floor and cannot exit the normal way. It will be imperative that you think through what you will do. Jumping from the forty-fourth floor is not going to work out well at all. You may say that you would never do this, but a hot rapidly progressing fire makes people do anything to escape from it. Keep in mind, jumping head first from the second, third or fourth floor can be just as deadly. You must have a practiced escape plan. Waiting until the fire is occurring is a bit too late. Thinking about it before the escape may prevent the hindered escape.