You probably saw the same news footage that I saw recently when a mother dropped her child out of a third-story window of a multi-family dwelling to neighbors waiting below. The building looked like a garden-style apartment building, which means that the only door leads into a common breezeway in the middle of four apartments. As I watched some footage on Facebook, there were three or four adult victims who had to exit through third-story windows after neighbors got a sheet and caught each person as they dropped. Leaving an apartment through a window happens because the space has become untenable.
Fire burns up and out. This fire was progressing rapidly, which gave the occupants very little time to make the right decisions. Fires in these types of buildings must be thought out before a fire ever occurs. If you live on a third floor, then you need to purchase a rescue ladder. Once you make this purchase, then you need to take it out of the box and see how to deploy it and connect it to the windowsill. To learn how the ladder feels, you should climb from the ground up. Practicing an escape from a window should be done from a first-floor window, if possible.
With all that is going on to rescue occupants, someone needs to call 911. Usually on a fire like this, there are numerous people who will call 911. It is important to make sure that someone does. When calling in a fire like this, in addition to giving a good address and the type of fire, the fact that people are trapped is a very important piece of information. Rescue of trapped occupants is the priority unless putting the fire out quickly will diminish the need for immediate rescue. Most likely though, firefighters will be using ground ladders for rescue. Firefighters use ground ladders in the front, rear and sides of homes, if appropriate, to allow firefighters another escape route should conditions rapidly deteriorate.
The best protections of a multi-family apartment building are sprinkler systems and smoke alarms. Sprinkler systems are designed to extinguish or keep a fire in check until the occupants can safely evacuate. Smoke alarms are designed to activate at the beginning of a fire, notifying occupants of the fire and allowing them the best chance of escape. Again, these fires have the potential of spreading rapidly, so the sooner you know about the fire and extinguishment begins to occur, the better. Going back to the people who were escaping through windows, the best way to exit is to hang from the windowsill and drop to the ground. I watched one lady jump from the window. The chances of greater injury occur when people jump from windows instead of hanging and dropping.
If you live above the first floor of any dwelling, then you must have a plan of escape. Don’t get me wrong, the same applies to a single-story dwelling, but escape from second-floor windows and above requires planning and extra equipment. To think that a fire will never occur is to set yourself and your family up for disaster. Not having to exit through a window is the best, but having a plan for a window escape is preparing for a bad situation. Think through it and then communicate the plan to your family. Once you have communicated it, then you must practice every part that can be safely practiced. Take your family to your special meeting place, which should be far enough away from the building to keep everyone safe. Preparation allows for a greater chance of survival. Have a safe and joyous holiday season while preparing in the event of a fire.