Survival Situations: Fire


There are a virtually infinite number of possible survival situations that one could experience. It can be overwhelming trying to understand and prepare for them. In an effort to index and provide information about the most common survival situations, has prepared a series of article which are entitled: Survival Situation. Each article provides high level information about a specific common survival situation and various ways to prepare and overcome them should they happen to you.

Survival situations involving fire are all to common, occurring both in natural and man-made environments. FEMA estimates approximately 4,000 Americans die annually due to fire related casualties. Sadly, many of these deaths could have been prevented by being prepared and knowing what to do in the case a fire breaks out.

Fire spreads quickly in virtually all environments, so it’s critical to keep calm and remember what to do to ensure you escape safely. Fire presents several possible threats to injure or kill humans. Inhaling the heated, smoke filled air it produces in building (or otherwise contained) fires can damage the lungs, possibly leaving injuries well after the fire has been extinguished. The toxic fumes can make you dizzy, disoriented, and even sleepy. In fact, asphyxiation is the most common cause of death in fire related fatalities and it’s because of this that fire alarms and smoke detectors are the single most important safety tool you can have to mitigate the risk fire poses. Even if you’re sleeping, unknowingly inhaling poisonous fumes, the fire alarm can wake you from your slumber, enabling you to escape safely.


Although this information is pretty much common knowledge to most individuals, here are the basic guidelines when it comes to fire alarm/smoke detector strategies:

  • Ideally, fire safety devices should be checked to ensure they’re still powered and functioning every month. Most modern devices have a test button built in, allowing the user to quickly be able to test the device.
  • Make sure to change the batteries of each fire safety device at least once a year. These devices will be of no use if there’s not enough juice left in the battery to power them up.
  • If you’re living in a multistory structure, ensure that each level has at least one fire safety device. Use common sense and pay attention to the manufacturer’s recommendations when it comes to square footage of the fire safety device’s range.

Besides utilizing and maintaining fire safety devices, using common sense and being careful is the best preventative for fires. If you choose to smoke in or around your home, ensure that whatever your smoking is fully extinguished when you’re finished. Take care to ensure heating sources such as ovens or fireplaces are fully shut off and extinguished (if applicable) before you leave your house, or will otherwise be unavailable (such as sleep). If you use indoor heating methods such as kerosene or floor heats for example, be mindful of any potentially flammable materials or objects around the heater.
You should own at least one fire extinguisher. There’s several variables to consider when selecting the proper type of fire extinguisher, if you’re unsure of which kind to get, check out this site to learn more.

Having an escape plan is another critical factor in fire safety. If the fire occurs in a structure that you’re familiar with, such as where you live, your chances of survival are greater since already familiar with windows and exit points. If you’re somewhere you’re not familiar with, you can still get out safely, just keep in mind the following exit strategies. If you have a family or are responsible for others such as children, disabled individuals, etc., make sure they understand and are able to execute a fire safety plan should the need arise. It’s especially important with young children to practice holding fire safety drills much like public schools do to ensure they don’t freeze up or panic should a fire occur.

Getting Out Safely

Sometimes, even with proper planning and prevention, fires still happen. Whether it’s arson or simply a freak accident, it’s very important to know what to do should a fire break out around you. Pretty much everyone is familiar with the phrase stop, drop, and roll. It’s easy to remember and is self explanatory. Should your clothing catch on fire, simply stop whatever your doing, drop to the ground, and roll around until the fire is completely extinguished. Running in an attempt to extinguish the flames will just cause more fan the flames and cause more injury.

If you’re in a building, always check any closed door before you open it. The correct method of checking is to use the back of your hand to feel the top of the door, the doorknob, and even the door-frame for heat. The reason you want to use the back of your hand is to mitigate the risk of injuring your fingers or palms which you may need later to climb or or crawl your way to safety.

  • If the door is hot, don’t open it. Find an alternate route. If no other route is available, try and locate a window to signal for help. Most urban/suburban areas in the US have some type of official or volunteer fire department who will hopefully be alerted to the fire and come to extinguish the flames and rescue anyone who can’t get out.
  • If the door isn’t hot, slowly open the door to check for any immediate signs of fire or smoke. Keep in mind, smoke and heat rise so crawling is generally the best method of escape if smoke/fire is present wherever you’re at.

A general strategy if you’re in a structure with multiple rooms, try and close each door behind you if it’s safe to do so. The reason for this is to slow the spread of the fire. It’s also recommended to sleep with your door shut for this very reason. Once you make it out safely, do not under any circumstance reenter the building. Summon assistance if you’re able to do so. If not, don’t go back in for any possessions, pets, etc. Make sure get as far away from the building as possible, this is especially true for very large structures or structures that may contain larger amounts of flammable items that may explode, sending dangerous debris all around.


Keep in mind the following basic points when it comes to fire safety and prevention and your odds of surviving a fire will greatly increase.

  • Have a plan, make sure you and anyone else you’re responsible for understands and is able to carry out this plan should a fire happen.
  • As is true in so many sports, defense is the best offense. Make sure you have fire safety devices correctly installed in your home and test them to ensure they’ll work should a fire break out.
  • Keep it simple – Stop, drop, and roll should your clothing catch on fire.
  • Crawling and keeping low to the ground will help you avoid the intense heat and toxic smoke a fire produces.
  • Finally, by being careful and staying alert, most fires can simply be avoided. If a fire is avoided, it poses no threat to you or your family.

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