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!
HAZARD SPECIFIC PROTOCOLS
(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".
NEVER HESITATE TO CALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT IF YOU SUSPECT A FIRE!
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".