Should Everyone Evacuate a High-Rise Fire?
Not all fires require a full building evacuation, some fires are kept at bay in single apartments, while others can spread through the entire building. Since we were children, we have been warned and taught about fires and what procedures to follow if one should occur. In school, whenever there are fire drills we were told to evacuate immediately and not waste any time grabbing belongings. But, is immediate evacuation always the right decision? First of all, it's crucial that everyone should have an emergency evacuation plan in case a disaster occurs. Whether you live in a house or an apartment building, you should know all the entrance and egress points like the back of your hand. In a smoke engulfed apartment, tenants should be able to exit without even seeing where they are going. However, in a situation where there isn’t smoke in your apartment but the fire alarm is going off, should you evacuate the building? In 2014, Daniel McClung tried to escape a fire in a Hell’s Kitchen high-rise. He decided that it was time to abandon his apartment and chose to take a stairway down to the ground level. Unfortunately, he chose the wrong stairwell, became inundated with smoke, and passed out. He was later pronounced dead due to excessive smoke inhalation. Daniel had taken a staircase that firefighters were using as an “attack route” to suppress the fire, causing it to be filled with smoke. Firefighters said that had he stayed in his apartment and not evacuated, he would have likely been unharmed, as they were able to completely subdue the fire. In a multi-story building, there are times when to evacuate and when not to evacuate in a fire. If you are not in any immediate danger and do not know what to do, it's important not to panic and stay put until otherwise instructed. Most new buildings are equipped with fireproof doors so that fires are less likely to spread from apartment to apartment. Each apartment may also contain a voice speaker system in which emergency responders can interact with residents and best instruct their actions. When the fire alarm in a high-rise is activated, generally the floor of origin, floor above, and floor below are the most important floors to be evacuated, with occupants of other floors directed to remain in place. If you are not in a modern high-rise, there is definitely some degree of risk in deciding whether to evacuate or not. If you decide to stay put and the fire ends up spreading, it may become much more difficult to escape the danger, compared to escaping at the first notice of the fire or the alarm. On the other hand, deciding to leave your location and exit the building may also position you in a more dangerous situation, as it did for Daniel McClung. The best choice is to use common sense, and be prepared for any situation. Take a calculated risk and decide to either wait for instructions on what to do, or find the safest escape route based on the given circumstance.