What to do if your house catches fire?
With the recent news about a fire at a home in Doha claiming the life of a child, here’s some statistics and recommendations that will make all of us less likely to suffer a serious injury or death due to a home fire.
According to figures from the Hamad General Hospital Trauma Registry, Civil Defence and Qatar Statistics Authority:
- Every year there about 900 fires reported to Civil Defence.
- About half of these fires occur in the home and 1 in 5 affect cars.
- The peak months for fires are May, June then July.
- There are 6-7 deaths and 80 to 100 hospital admissions for serious burns every year.
- Almost half of all home fires start in the kitchen.
JustHere had earlier compiled a list of safety measures to keep your house safe from fires during summer. However, here are a few tips that will help save lives in the event of an actual fire:
- Have a working smoke detector. These devices are designed to provide an early warning for the residents of a home that there is a fire and they should leave the house promptly. The risk of a death or serious injury in a home fire is four times higher in homes without a smoke detector. Detectors save lives by warning residents while the fire has not yet engulfed their location; often waking sleeping residents and allowing them time to escape. There should be one in the kitchen and outside each room that residents sleep in at night. The unit must be changed every 10 years, the batteries changed every year and it must be tested monthly. All newcomers must install one upon arrival to their new accommodations.
- Leave firefighting to the professionals. Despite the presence of fire extinguishers and hoses, the advice is to leave the scene of the fire and notify Civil Defence unless you are adequately trained and able to operate firefighting equipment.
- Devise an escape plan for each room in the house and practice it with all members of the household. There must be at least two identified routes of escape and this plan must be practiced regularly so potential barriers to escape can be identified and addressed. Start with a floor plan of the house and conduct a walk through to assess the best escape route for each room. Identify a rallying point outside of the house. This is where all members of the household will assemble after successfully leaving the burning house. This way missing members will be identified and Civil Defence will be notified.
- Do not re-enter a burning building. This will only increase the number of people at risk for death or serious injury. Leave this to the professionals.
- Stay low and go, go, go. Keep close to the ground as this keeps you out of the densest smoke that can cause asphyxiation. Most deaths occur due to asphyxiation, even before the fire engulfs the victim. This is why a speedy evacuation is best.
- Check the temperature outside of a room before opening the door. This is done by putting one’s hand on a doorknob or under the door. If either is warm to touch then it is best to explore another escape route because you may be facing a burning corridor, get engulfed by fire or smoke and allow the fire entry into the room if you open the door.
- Memorise your building, street and zone numbers. This will be necessary when you call 999 to alert them of the fire. It will greatly improve the response from Civil Defence if you can give them this information.
Courtesy: Trauma section, Department of Surgery, Hamad General Hospital, Hamad Medical Corporation