144586 tn?1284666164

Actions to Take in Event of Fire

The answer to the question: "What should I do in the event of a fire" can be summed up in two words. Those words are - "it depends". We are assuming you have taken the time to familiarize yourself with the firefighting equipment available, and know which type of extinguisher should be used on every different kind of fire.

I made this post only after a lot of reflection. There is nothing more irritating that to read an Internet post where someone posts "just to hear themselves talk".

The following comments are written by caregiver222, and not posted anywhere else, to my knowledge. I have done so because all of the instructions I have read put out by FEMA, the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) and on all the posters handed out by every fire department, are incorrect. Worse yet, they can cause loss of lives.

There are two kinds of "protocols", or standard operating procedures (SOP's) for a civilian dealing with a fire.

The first protocol is the GENERAL PROTOCOL.

The second is the HAZARD SPECIFIC protocol.

The general protocol is for everyone and most common fire situations. The hazard specific protocols are for those who work around gasoline tankers, refining plants, chemical plants, explosive manufacturing industries, where there is radiation....etc.


(1) Assess the situation. This need not take more than a second or two. The reason why a single list of actions that should be accomplished should not be provided in rigid order is that a human being CANNOT do two things at one time. For example, one may not be able to run out to send in a fire alarm and fight the fire. If you leave the fire area, the fire will grow.

(2) Prioritize actions. This means to make a decision as to WHAT TO DO FIRST. This is not always "cut and dried". Should you find a fire extinguisher and attempt to put out the fire, or should you run down the hall to tell everyone to get out of the building? Or should you call the fire department? Let's throw in a third choice. Should you secure the room? Securing the room means closing the window(s) and closing the door behind you. Is the fire spreading so rapidly that you may be trapped? Or is in a corner and can the windows be closed quickly and easily?  Bear in mind that a small extinguisher may easily put out a fire that is beginning.l Ten minutes later, you may require a hundred gallons of water and a fire department pumper with hoseline.

PRIORITIZING actions means you have to take into consideration if anyone could hear you if you yelled "fire". Are you the only person in this area of the building? Are there elderly or medically disabled patients in the room?

In almost all cases the first action is to yell "fire" and to simultaneously reach for the nearest extinguisher and attempt to supress the fire. Hopefully, the extinguisher is within a few feet.

If there is an interior building fire alarm box "pull the handle". Again, make a decision. If the alarm box is twenty foot away, pull the alarm and then get the extinguisher. If it is way down the hall, then you may choose to simply use the extinguisher first. Bear in mind that in many buildings, pulling the interior alarm does not summon the fire department! This is unfortunately true in many hospitals. Because some security advisor is "tired of the false alarms", they insist that every call must be personally investigated before the fire department is notified!

So if you use an extinguisher and do not fully extinguish the fire, call the fire department yourself on your cell or a landline. Bear in mind that fires can often flare back up, so don't hesitate to call if there is any trace of a fire. Do not pay any attention to hospital protocols that threaten you with decapitation if you yourself call the fire department. Remember that a cell does not provide the dispatcher with a location. Try to know the nearest intersecting two streets. State this to the 911 operator.

(3) Remove the extinguisher from the wall, pull the pin and discharge the powder (or fluid) at the base of the flames in a sweeping motion. If there is a fire hose and a valve, there may not be water in the line. The pipe to which the interior hoses are connected to is called a "standpipe". There are both "wet" and "dry" standpipes. Dry standpipe systems have no water in them until the fire department pumper poulls up and attaches a feeding line to the outside of the building. If you use a fire hose there may be no shut off valve. Once you turn the water valve and pull the hose out, you may not be able to shut the water off without going back to the standpipe. This will, of course, cause a lot of water damage. Don't worry about the water damage. That's why we have the insurance fairy, who works with the tooth fairy.

(4) If you do not success in putting out the fire, if it is safe to do so, SECURE the room and reduce the available supply of oxygen. Do this by closing all windows and closing the door. Again this is a judgemental call. DO NOT get yourself trapped.

(5) At this point, if you have not yet called the fire department do so. Never be hesitant to make this call! If you see smoke or hear someone yelling "fire" in a hospital, school, or workplace, don't assume they have called. Make another call yourself! If you have only pulled an interior building alarm, even if there are fire bells sounding, do not assume fire engines are on the way. Follow up with a call to 911.

(6) Notify and assist in the evacuation of all persons in the vicinity of the fire. If you are physically able, do not leave the floor until everyone has been evacuated. Make sure all doors of the floor are closed.  Especially those leading to  stairwells. Often doors are often wedged open for ventilation. At one local high school the principal has installed "U" shaped bars to keep open the fire retarding doors in the hallway to speed the flow of pupils during classs change!


(1) These are written for specific high hazard areas, such as around gasoline storage tanks. I am not going to consider all possibilities here. Know about the protocol that concerns your job site. In almost all cases there will be an assessment, and a decision to be made to immediately fight the fire, or to get help and evacuate others. In the case of a hazard specific protocol you will also have to prioritize your actions. There is no "One rule fits all".


Every child in a school should be instructed to assume "if there is smoke there is fire" and act accordingly. Acting accordingly means pulling the nearest fire alarm and following this up by verbal notificalion of the fire department "there is a condition". The "condition" is "I smell skoke".
4 Responses
144586 tn?1284666164
One of the most important things to do if you see a fire and there is no fire department present is to CALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT. That advice holds whether you on the street wandering around or wherever you may be.  I will also add that if you are in a building and an interior alarm goes off, also call the fire department. Never assume that someone has done so!

I cannot emphasize how many lives are lost every year because of a delay in summoning additional help.

If you are present when a fire starts and there is another person present, you fight the fire and tell them to immediately telephone the fire department and to pull the interior buiilding alarm (if there is one). Make sure you tell them to do BOTH. NEVER EVER assume that pulling an interior alarm summons the fire department! Remember that with a landline the dispatcher has your address but with a cell phone they will not know where you are.

If you can, specifiy the area of town and the nearest intersecting streets.

You are not required to provide your name, although you will always be asked to do so. If you work in a hospital and the building alarm goes off and you have been told not to call the fire department, you can always do so and give the name of the nurse that always gave you such a hard time. (Just kidding)


That's what they get paid for.
144586 tn?1284666164
Lets discuss the importance of LEADERSHIP in the event of a fire, disaster, or medical emergency.

LEADERSHIP can be exercised by anyone. You can be a fifteen-year old girl or a seventy-year old retiree. You don't need a title.

Leadership in the event of a fire (when the fire department has not yet arrived) consists of:  (1) Providing clear VERBAL instructions to others and (2) Addressing them by NAME (if possible). Re-read number (2)

To state to nobody in particuliar: "Will somebody call the fire department!" ensures that nobody will.

You don't want to get yourself hurt. During the initial assessment stage you decide whether or not this fire can be contained. In almost all cases a small fire that is rapidly identified can be extinguished with the available apparatus. I say: "in almost all". If you have any doubt, get everyone out of the room, close the door and evacuate.

Sixteen year old Karen grabs the nearest extinguisher and points with her finger and says to her closest friend: "Susan - I want you to pull the building alarm and call the fire department by telephone or on your cell!" Clear verbal instructions have been given. And a person has been designated by name.

While Karen takes the dry chemical extinguisher (it's a big extinguisher and says 60 ABC on the side - she knows she can use it on wood or paper)  and removes the safety pin she points to another girl: "Kelly - you get the other extinguisher down the hall to the right and bring it back quickly." Often a second or third extinguisher load is required to extinguish a fire. If there are several people present you cannot count on them using their initiative to assist.

Human beings in an emergency will invariably respond to clear-cut common-sense verbal instructions.

Don't be afraid to "take charge" and give them!

144586 tn?1284666164
When evacuating a building where there is a fire smoke incapacitation will be a primary problem.  Most people are killed in a fire due to smoke inhalation. You will be surprised at the fact you may have zero visibility. You won't be able to see your hand in front of your face. If you have children hold their hands at all times. Form a daisy chain.

If you are in a hotel, when you register count how many doors to the nearest fire exit. Bring your key with you, in case you have to go back to your room.

The decision whether or not to stay in your room will be a difficult one. My vote is to always try to get out of the building. But there are exceptions. Shut the air conditioners off, stuff blankets around the bottom of the door, and hang something out the window to get the attention of the firefighters. Windows in many hotels won't open enough to get out. Use a chair as a battering ram to break the glass. Call the desk. If you have an outside line, or a cell-phone, call the fire department and tell them what room you are trapped in.

If you have a wet cloth to hold over everyone's face, so much the better. If not any filter will help a bit. Your shirt or coat, for example.

Smoke and poisonous gases rise, so you will find the air better at the floor.

Don't run. In zero visibility you may trip over someone on the floor or debri or an object in the hallway.

Take a few deep breaths of clean air and hold your breath as you go through the smoke. Or slowly exhale. If you are exiting with children tell them "I won't be able to talk in there. Try not to talk because you will inhale smoke". Talk as little as possible.

Depending on the kind of fire, a single breath may cause a larayngospasm and violent coughing.  That is not good. This is expecially true of electrical fires and those involving plastics. I had been in a number of fires and one day, as a civilian, ended up on subway where there was a fire in one of the motors of the car. The smoke was like nothing else I had ever encountered. It burned my throat horribly.  I began coughing violently. I learned a lesson. Not all smoke is alike.

Keep moving.

If you come to a door feel the door. If it is hot, don't open it. If it is cold, open it carefully. Close it behind you.

If you feel heroic and decide to enter a smoke filled building remember you will have only a limited amount of time to act. Inhaling the smoke make render you an instant casualty and incapable of helping anyone. Think twice.

144586 tn?1284666164
OIL FIRE IN A FRYING PAN - Actions to take -

Doing the wrong thing when you have a burning pan of oil is the usual way people set their clothes on fire.

These are the three rules for dealing with an oil fire in a frying pan.

1) NEVER EVER put water on an oil fire.
2) Re-read (1) above
3) Re-read (2) above

If you put water on an oil fire, the fire will literally explode, sending gobs of burning oil all over you, the kitchen and Tweety, your poor little parakeet.

You put a fire in a frying pan out by putting a COVER on the fire, or using a dry chemical extinguisher. Baking soda will work if it is handy.

If your clothing catches fire, roll on the floor. Do not run.

Never leave a pan with oil in it unattended. And always have a cover available to place on top of the pan in an emergency.

You are reading content posted in the Disaster Preparedness Community

Popular Resources
In this unique and fascinating report from Missouri Medicine, world-renowned expert Dr. Raymond Moody examines what really happens when we almost die.
Think a loved one may be experiencing hearing loss? Here are five warning signs to watch for.
When it comes to your health, timing is everything
We’ve got a crash course on metabolism basics.
Learn what you can do to avoid ski injury and other common winter sports injury.
Here are the pros and cons of the top fad diets and weight loss plans of the year.