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High Rise Fire Safety

February 6, 2014

fire safetyMany times I write blog articles focused on fire safety for those living or working in single-family homes or small businesses. But as I look at the construction going on in the cities of Seattle, Bellevue, and beyond, the truth is that there’s a good number of people who spend a part, or majority, of their day in high-rise buildings. How does this affect fire safety?

First and foremost, you should always have an evacuation plan.  Ask yourself, as you read this blog article, if a fire happened what would you do?  Can you easily locate two ways to get out of your building? Each high-rise building in Seattle is required to have an emergency plan that is approved by the Fire Department. Do you know what your building’s plan is? Ask your building manager or floor warden to find out. All non-residential high-rise buildings in Seattle have a volunteer designated to train and know your building’s emergency plans.

Other advice:

–          Don’t take the elevators. They are recalled to the lobby of the building in an emergency to keep them from being used by the building occupants.

–          Don’t panic. Though you might be feeling frantic and afraid, a calm, orderly exit process down the stairwells is best for everyone’s safety.

–          Most high-rise buildings are equipped with sprinklers. These should activate to help stop the spread of the fire and give you and your family or coworkers time to exit the building.

–          If the fire is on a floor below you and you cannot evacuate, find a room with a window and a telephone, close the door and let people know you’re there.

  • It is not generally advisable, according to the City of Seattle Fire Department, to break or open windows. Often outside smoke will enter the room and put you at risk as well as make it harder to rescue you.
  • Block the gap under the door as best as possible. Shirts, towels, or anything you can fit in this gap will help prevent smoke from coming into the room.
  • Place a warning signal in the window. The most effective signal is one that will call attention to the fact you’re in there.

–          Review this plan periodically with your family or staff. Preparedness is the best way to remain safe in a fire emergency!

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, once you begin an evacuation continue it. During a real emergency many people are panicking, misinformation floats around, and general chaos and confusion can become very real. If you start down the evacuation stairs, continue. Go outside the building, meet in your designated meeting area, and confirm that you are, in fact, safe to go back inside. It is better to be overly safe than sorry.


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