By James Ghi for The Island Connection
Most of us may think that it would be easy to come up with an escape plan for your own home.
After all, you aren’t ever more than a few steps away from a window or a door. You know your own home so well it would be hard to get lost in it. Those are both reasons that I have heard people tell me for not making an escape plan ahead of time. Why bother?
Keep in mind if you have an unwanted fire in your home, you are being exposed to many different products of combustion.
Carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide are both responsible for the one-two punch of confusion and sleepiness. It can make it hard to open a door by turning the handle while under the influence of these “toxic twins.” They take away reason and logic while oxygen is being deprived from the brain.
High heat levels build up incredibly fast in a compartment, such as in a room or a level in the home. The searing heat raising the temperature of your body has to be mind-numbing. How can one focus on tasks while your brain is screaming to do nothing but stop the pain? Temperatures of more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit are not uncommon in rooms on fire, and the higher you are, the hotter it is. You may also start to suffer from burns when the temperature reaches about 130 degrees Fahrenheit. This is why it is important to practice crawling low under smoke.
We have all heard it before, but get down on your hands and knees and practice crawling to your doors. This will make it more automatic for you to do this if you have that memory marker that you have done it before.
You should also know at least two different ways out of your home. When you practice your escape plan, alternate the exits. Using the same route all of the time will cause “muscle memory”, meaning that the route you always use for practice will be the one you use when under a stressful situation. You should actually try to alternate how you enter and leave you home under routine conditions to help develop good “muscle memory”.
I was on an incident several years ago that resulted in a civilian fire death. The occupant entered through the side kitchen door for 30 years. A fire occurred in the home. The resident crawled past the front door to exit out the side kitchen door just as they had for 30 years.
Escape planning should not only be done at home, it should be done whenever you are away from home. When I stay in a hotel, before I enter the room, I close my eyes and count the number of doors to the closest exit. I also use the stairs and will travel different ways to an exit during my stay. This is also important if you are vacationing at a rental home. If you are staying with relatives, ask them what their escape plan is and practice it during your stay. The few minutes you take before the fire may provide you with the necessary time to escape.