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House fires, how to survive them? Why do people die in them?

(57 Posts)
Bumperslucious Sat 18-Jul-09 10:11:23

After a few national news stories about people, families dying in house fires, it has got me thinking. Why do people die in house fires?

I'm not being as dense as you think, what I am wondering is what is the reality of a house fire?

Obviously living in a flat with no fire escape is a huge risk. I live in a 1st floor flat and assume that I would chuck a mattress out of the window and we would bundle DD up in a duvet and lower her down. Is that unrealistic? Would I have been overcome by smoke by then? How much time does a smoke alarm by you? I think I have an unrealistic view of how quickly fire spreads.

What do other people think? I know we joke about zombie plans, but what are people's real plans? What are the behaviours that allow people to die in house fires? Why don't they get out sooner?

I wonder if there is any chance of having someone knowledgeable on here to talk about it in the way they do with schools.

Can we talk about it, even if it is just to get some people thinking a bit more about it?

foxinsocks Sat 18-Jul-09 10:15:22

we had a fire in our street. Row of terraces. One person died.

I was amazed by how quickly it spread. We were evacuated immediately (even though we are half way down the terraces). You could feel the heat from the end of the street. The smoke was that horrid black colour and so so thick.

I think you can't see, you're struggling to breathe and it's very very hot. I can see why people can't get out .

Smoke alarms must help but I also wondered (when we had this fire) that when it spreads from another house or flat, by the time it gets to yours, it will be a pretty serious situation iyswim.

AnarchyAunt Sat 18-Jul-09 10:16:43

Thats a really good idea actually - like a firefighter or similar?

We have smoke alarms on each floor and make sure things are turned off at night. They detect tiny amounts of smoke so should 'buy you' a useful amount of time, I hope so anyway. Don't smoke anymore but when we did never in bed - one of biggest risks iirc.

People get trapped in a room by flames and then smoke inhalation I think. Can hardly bear to think about it but needs to be discussed so everyone can take sensible precautions.

Bumperslucious Sat 18-Jul-09 10:22:41

I was watching a documentary a while ago about survival behaviour and this fire investigator was saying how wherever he goes, like a hotel or something, he always walks the fire escape route. How many people do that? Yet it could save your life.

Shutting internal doors is meant to help too isn't it? We don't shut our bedroom doors though as we need to hear DD. And we don't have a door on our miniscule kitchen. Actually, that makes me think, open plan houses must be more of a fire risk?

Ours probably is too as it is a hundred year old house of converted flats. Fortunately we have massive sash windows.

I remember talk in school of ripping sheets up to make a rope, but you'd need scissors would you?

Sorry to be rambling, I just feel a bit of a MNET campaign coming on...

Bumperslucious Sat 18-Jul-09 10:24:26

I forget that smoke is that horrid acrid black stuff too. I always imagine it to be all white and whispy hmm. I think I need a reality check more than anything!

whyme2 Sat 18-Jul-09 10:28:54

I think the fire brigade offer safety checks and will come to your house to talk you through it. (Do in our area anyway)

Shut doors, turn everything off, have an escape plan and practise it with your dcs.

hobbgoblin Sat 18-Jul-09 10:30:19

I am ashamed to admit that I have wondered exactly this. I just can't quite comprehend how it could be so difficult to get out of your average building. There is no question that it is for many people who die every year in house fires.

My exH is a voluntary fireman - I'll ask him later.

I do get that if you have a smoke alarm that helps, plus not locking doors and forgetting where the key is, not having double glazing that doesn't smash, etc. Not being in an attic room with only one exit...

But, are all the fatalities because of the above or do many people die despite covering all bases.

It goes without saying that if you are physically or mentally impaired in some way, all the practical precautions above are only going to overcome some of the difficulties faced in escaping smoke and flames.

expatinscotland Sat 18-Jul-09 10:31:50

when i lived in a high rise tower block of flats (before children), we kept an old climbing rope and harnesses on the balcony so we could abseil out if need be (were 12 floors up).

bigstripeytiger Sat 18-Jul-09 10:33:14

You need to have a plan, and everyone needs to know what it is. If you close the door to a room, with wet towels along the floor to stop smoke getting in that is meant to buy you some time.
If you are a few floors up there are rope-style ladders that you can buy - they are kept rolled up, so I think dont take up too much space.

StrangeTown Sat 18-Jul-09 10:34:40

Fire bridgade came last week to do a Home Check with us and it was absolutely brilliant. They went through the risks in each room with us, then sat down and had a talk about general risks and behaviours. Not running appliances at night, shutting doors, candles, matches etc.
Then the best bit is planning your evacuation, we went through various plans, tactic etc and felt really good when they left esp as I have 1 18 month old DS and am pregnant.

Ring your local fire brigade now.

They also fitted new 10 year smoke alarms.

Bumperslucious Sat 18-Jul-09 10:39:57

Just looked at our local fire brigade website and Whyme2 is right, the firebrigade will come round and they will install smoke alarms for free. So there is NO EXCUSE for no smoke alarms (sorry, just wanted to get my message across).

My fear is that DD is in another room and in a cot, and only 2 so we can really explain it to her. My biggest fear is being cut off from her.

Bumperslucious Sat 18-Jul-09 10:43:27

Presumably night fires are more risky because you have little warning, but I think that fires in the day time can be risky because people think they can tackle a fire but should really just get out.

On this documentary I watched it said that people (talking mainly about work places etc.) just don't realise how little time you have. If you have fire drills at work (compulsory surely?) think how much everyone fannies around. He mentioned about 9/11 and people were still sending emails or calling people rather than just getting the hell out as early as possible.

Bumperslucious Sat 18-Jul-09 10:46:50

Strangetown, were they ok about doing it? I've got the request form up now but feel a bit weird, like I am wasting resources or something. But I guess it would save resources if our flat was safer wouldn't it?

FlappyTheBat Sat 18-Jul-09 10:56:29

I have just filled out an online request for a visit, I think the Fire Brigade would rather do home visits like this as prevention/preparation will save more lives.

jooseyfruit Sat 18-Jul-09 11:02:14

thank you for this thread bumpers.

i've just filled in the online form to request home safety check.

i've been meaning to do this for ages and this has been the kick up the bum i needed.

misdee Sat 18-Jul-09 11:04:27

i am looking into something like this bu would prefer one in each bedroom.

kidcreoleandthecoconuts Sat 18-Jul-09 11:04:33

We live in a bungalow and are very lucky to have windows that open up like doors in all the bedrooms so that if there was ever a fire in the night we could just jump out of them. We also never lock them just in case. Although when DD and DS become teenagers we may have to rethink this as they will be jumping out at night to go to parties or letting people in! hmm

Tryharder Sat 18-Jul-09 11:05:15

Agree with Strangetown about phoning the Fire Brigade. We got 3 smoke alarms fitted free of charge (in addition to the 2 I had already) including a carbon monixide detector one and they give you ideas about an escape plan and reducing the risk - all as outlined above. Plus about 3 men in fire fighting gear and red fire engine come to your house - which I DS1 enjoyed. wink

The fireman I spoke to said that most fires are caused by cigarettes and chip pans and that, we as non smokers and chip pan-less are at low risk.

It's absolutely my worst nightmare though, what a horrible, frightening way to die and how dreadful it would be to lose your kids like that sad

Bumperslucious Sat 18-Jul-09 11:31:07

Just filled in a fire check request form and will suggest they talk to the rest of our flat too.

While we may be high risk, we are at the mercy of the behaviour of others in the flat too. They only have to come home drunk and decide to cook and fall asleep, or smoke...

Bumperslucious Sat 18-Jul-09 12:25:22


Bumperslucious Sat 18-Jul-09 17:21:40

Bump again, I'm on a mission now grin

bamboobutton Sat 18-Jul-09 17:27:16

one of the things the fire brigade told me when they did a home visit is to keep keys in the locks for the outside doors.

they said loads of the fires they went to the people had taken the keys out and were lucky to escape. the last thing you want is to surrounded by thick smoke and not being able to find the key.

LuluMaman Sat 18-Jul-09 17:29:54

excellent thread

we had the fire brigade come round and fit the alarms etc

we have open fires in the winter, and i do worry about a spark flying out or a log falling out of the grate.

i don't run the washing machine and diswasher at night anymore

we leave our house keys and window keys where we could easily grab them

we would be able to easily break our bedroom window as it is single glazed and lower the children out and then hopefully get ourselves out.

obviously, the first thing to do is to dial 999

Meglet Sat 18-Jul-09 17:36:33

I've typed up lots of fire investigations and loads are caused by candles and drunk people smoking or lighting chip pans. Also few electricals fires and some arson, thatch cottages are risky too if you aren't careful. TBH they seem to be easily avoided if you are sensible.

Just get lots of smoke alarms and a home visit from your local fire service and you'll be fine. Think of how little smoke it takes to set off a detector by your kitchen, if you heard that in the night you'd be out the house in seconds before the smoke took over. And most houses in towns + cities will only be a 5 minutes drive for a fire engine (there's guidelines on response times, hence lots of part time stations out in little vilages). I'm close to our fire station and the blokes said if I was stuck on the first floor not to jump out as I'd break my legs and they'd be here in 2 mins anyway.

MadameCastafiore Sat 18-Jul-09 17:37:56

We have a smoke alarm system thing that rings the fire brigade straight away when the alarms go off.

On account of advice from uncle who was a firemen - always leave keys in double glazed windows - never lock doors, other than external doors at night and most of all if you move into a house and it only has fanlights - get them changed and get big openers.

You can get ladders which you can clip to the internal walls or have under a trap door if you live in a flat - you just unfurl them out of the window and climb down.

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