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Planning Alternate Fire Escape Routes From Your Home

In Nashua, NH in mid-August, a 48-year-old man was transported to a hospital following an unusual incident. It seems that a fire broke out not in his apartment, but rather just outside the entryway to his apartment, around 11 p.m. By the time firefighters arrived, the fire had been partially extinguished by residents. Furthermore, the fire was extinguished even before it could spread beyond the entryway.

Nonetheless, the man was trapped in his apartment because there was only one door that led outside, and the fire in that doorway caused smoke to fill his apartment, resulting in the man suffering poisonous smoke inhalation.

In any situation where there is only one door out of a building, windows should be considered as alternate fire escape routes, and rope ladders or some other means of getting out that window and onto the ground should be stored within reach of that window. Also, all occupants of a dwelling–including children–should know about these alternate escape routes and how to use the nearby items to get out of windows safely in case the doors are blocked by fire or smoke.

Now, if that first story was not enough to push you to plan more than one fire escape route from your home and your office, then consider this story: In Northern Virginia this week, a resident at an apartment complex had to climb onto the roof to escape flames–which is as dangerous as being inside the building!

Firefighters received multiple alarms starting at 6:21 p.m., arrived on the scene, and got the fire under control by 6:38 p.m. But when they first arrived, firefighters found smoke streaming from second-floor windows, and that a man had climbed onto the roof because he could not get out his front door in time. This is a dangerous act, because heat and smoke rise–the man might soon have been trapped on the roof in unbearable heat and smoke, and unable to escape injury or death. Luckily, the man was finally able to get down once firefighters knocked down the flames and then conducted a search of the second floor.

The fire started on the stove in the kitchen of a second-floor apartment and then extended into the cabinets. The cause was found to be a pan of grease left unattended on the stove. Investigators also found the smoke alarm in the apartment had no batteries and was not functioning. Also, fire extinguishers there were out of date, exit lights were burned out, and electrical panel boxes were blocked. These are all serious fire hazards–and they expose the apartment complex’s management company to legal liability if someone is injured in a fire.

The fire damage was confined to that one apartment, while another sustained smoke damage. The estimate for the damage is $15,000. The American Red Cross was assisting the families who had damage.

Please consider these incidents as you prepare your fire escape plans for your home and your place of work. Remember: A door may not be a possible escape route in case of fire, and you must be ready to get out another way to avoid severe burns or smoke inhalation that can kill you.