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Step-by-step Guide on What to Do in the Event of a Fire Outbreak in Your Home

09 Mar 2018

Tips & Advice

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Daniel J. Walls / Wikimedia Commons

As the elders like to say, prevention is better than cure. But fire outbreaks still happen and we should be prepared to handle them. Know that when it comes to emergency situations like this, there is no fixed list and sequence of steps since there are so many factors to consider, such as the location of the fire and the layout of your home etc. However, there are 5 main steps that should aid you greatly if a fire happens in your HDB unit.

Keep Calm and Asses Situation

Singapore Buses / flickr

A fire outbreak can be incredibly scary, but if you succumb to your nerves and do something impulsive you put yourself in even more danger. For example, if you pour water onto an oil or electrical fire, you might die immediately due to intense heat or electrocution. Do not try to retrieve your valuables either. Instead, assess the situation and quickly determine if you need to call Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) at 995.

Use the Fire Extinguisher

When the fire is small, try to contain it if you can do it without endangering those around you. Pour water on burning papers, wood and fabrics but never on flammable liquids like oil because that will aggravate the fire. For other burning materials, get a fire extinguisher found along corridors and beside lifts. Check the label for the category of fire it is effective against and make sure it corresponds to the type of fire you have. When operating the fire extinguisher, use the PASS method (pull the nozzle, aim nozzle at base of fire, squeeze the lever, sweep the fire using extinguisher discharge). If the fire is too large, call SCDF and attempt escape immediately.

Drop to Floor, Cover Mouth and Nostrils

Josh Plueger/U.S. Air Force

In a fire outbreak, it is usually not the flames but the smoke and heat that are most deadly. If large plumes of smoke are sighted, drop to the floor, cover your mouth and nostrils, and breathe through your nose. Smoke and hot air tend to accumulate near the ceiling. You’d want to avoid inhaling smoke particles and hot air because smoke particles are highly toxic and hot air will scald your lungs. To minimise inhaling this stuff, stay close to the floor and cover your moth and nostrils with a wet cloth. If you have no wet cloth, using your shirt works too.

Turn Off Gas Mains, Do Headcount and Escape via Staircase

George Hodden / Publicdomainimages

Your priority should be escaping. If your unit has a circuit breaker installed, the lights will be out and instead the emergency light will be activated. Improvise your exit route to the door while keeping your body low. Meanwhile, take note of how many are trapped and turn off the gas mains if you can reach them. Do not attempt to rescue any trapped individuals.

Once you are out of the unit, knowing the emergency exit route in advance would be ideal. If not, make way to the nearest staircase, which is pressurised to keep smoke out. Activate the fire alarm at the nearest manual call point. After you have exited the block, inform the firefighters on the number of people trapped in your unit.

Keep Yourself Safe if Trapped

Orangewarning / Wikipedia Commons

If you can’t exit the unit, close all fire-rated doors and do not seek refuge in the toilet. If you are trapped in a room, stuff paper or clothing under doors to keep out smoke and open the windows to ventilate the space. Smoke inhalation can be deadly so continue to stay close to the floor and cover your mouth with a wet cloth. Firefighters typically arrive in 10 minutes. In the meantime, keep calm and use your phone to aid rescue attempts. You can even hang something at the window to alert the firefighters.

Stop, Drop, Roll

If you happen to catch a fire, use the stop, drop and roll method to get rid out of it. Stop moving and stay calm, then drop to the floor immediately. Once you are on the floor roll from side to side while covering your face with your hands.

With these steps in mind, you will be able to escape a fire outbreak in your HDB unit. For fire outbreaks at other locations, whether it’s at the office or a public space, the same steps generally apply. As a general rule, ensure that you are familiar with the exits in any environments (at least 2), and be wary of entering overcrowded venues (see the Brazil nightclub fire incident that killed more than 240 people).

For more information, you can view these links:
– SCDF Emergency Handbook (Chapter 2)

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