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Escape from Fire

Once You Are Out STAY OUT!

Never re-enter! Results could be DEADLY!

One of the greatest hazards to life that exist in a building fire of any magnitude is the lack of sufficient oxygen.

Oxygen not only is essential for human life, but also is key to supporting the life of the fire. When fire and humans compete for the limited amount of oxygen within a burning building, fire always wins!

Most fire fatalities are caused because of this. It is often referred to as death from smoke inhalation but put in much simpler terms it is death by suffocation.

Once you have made your way out of a burning building you may already be suffering the effects from lack of oxygen. These effects include:

Oxygen Level Effects
21% Normal Atmospheric Level
19.5% Minimum Healthful Level
15-19% Decreased Stamina and Coordination, also may induce early symptoms described below
12-14% Breathing rate increases with exertion, increase in heart rate. Impaired coordination, perception, and judgement
10-12% Breathing further increases in rate and depth, lips turn blue. Poor judgement
8-10% Mental failure, fainting, unconsciousness, nausea, and vomiting
6-8% Fatal after 6-8 minutes
4-6% Coma in 40 seconds, convulsions, respiration ceases, and death

One of the major effects of lack of oxygen is the impairment of judgement. You may not realize it, but the possible exposure of lack of oxygen on the way out may impair your ability to think clearly and rationally. Even if you are not affected, others who escaped with you may display this impairment of judgement. IT IS IMPORTANT TO PREVENT OTHERS FROM RE-ENTERING!


Other Dangers

  • The presence of toxic gases. Carbon Monoxide is a main by-product of fire. It is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. In high concentration it can immediately cause unconsciousness and subsequent death. Even in moderate amounts carbon monoxide can cause impairment of mental functions much similar to lack of oxygen.
  • Burn injuries by fire itself. A building fire can generate heat upwards of 1500 degrees F. Keep in mind that water boils at 212 degrees F, and that most foods are cooked in temperatures of less than 500 degrees F. There is the possible danger of flashover where a room is immediately engulfed in flames in an explosion-like reaction.
  • Gas mains, propane tanks, and even small arms ammunition can explode causing serious injury.
  • Structural integrity. Ceilings and walls can collapse on top of you, the floors can fall from underneath your feet, and other structures such as stairways and porches can collapse.
  • Electrical lines can become exposed inside the building and fall from outside connections to the ground on the exterior of the building. This can result in electrocution.



Go to a safe place (preferably prearranged) far enough away from the building in case of collapse or explosion and perform a head count of those who were in the building with you (family members or co-workers).

If someone is missing it is critically important that this be conveyed to arriving Firefighting Personnel. Tell them who and how many people are missing and where they were last seen. DO NOT GO BACK IN AND TRY TO FIND THOSE MISSING!!!

Seek medical care if you or any others who escaped from the burning building are injured. Keep in mind that the symptoms of lack of oxygen and/or exposure to toxic gases can closely resemble those of alcohol intoxication. Get these people immediate medical attention.

Seek shelter from the elements in a safe neighboring building, especially in the cold, rain, and extreme heat.

Ask Firefighting Officials or a neighbor to notify insurance company, nearby relatives or the Red Cross to arrange lodging (if applicable).

If you are not going to remain in the building, make sure your property is secure. Ensure the police are aware of the building being unattended. Lock up or board up open windows and doors.


The dangers of oxygen displacement in a burning building as well as other hazards including the presence of toxic gases, the fire itself, the risk of explosion, building collapse, and electrocution make reentering a burning structure a dangerous, if not deadly proposition.

Some of the information in this publication was been provided to the United States Fire Administration by the Pennsylvania State Fire Commissioner's Office.


Know When To Go! React Fast To Fire!

If you hear a fire alarm, get out and stay out. Smoke detectors and fire alarms protect you from fire. They sound an alarm to worn you that it's time to escape.

Do you know the sound of your home fire alarm?

You should test your smoke detectors and fire alarms once a month. Listen and learn whey your home fire alarm sounds like.

Do you know what to do when you hear the fire alarm?

Every home should have an escape plan. Draw a map of your home. Mark at least two ways to get out of every room. Practice your escape. When you hear a fire alarm:

  1. Stop what you are doing.
  2. Follow your fire escape plan.
  3. Do Not stop for anything.
  4. Once out of the building, STAY OUT!

Do you know what to do if there is smoke?

Smoke is poisonous! If there is smoke between you and your exit, turn around and use another way out. If you have to escape through smoke, crawl on your hands and knees and keep your head about 12 inches (30 centimeters) above the floor, where the air will be cleaner and easier to breathe.

Do you know what to do if your clothing catches fire?


  1. Stop right where you are.
  2. Drop to the ground gently.
  3. Put your hands over your face and roll over and over until the flames are out.

Do you know where to go after you escape?

Decide on a place to meet outside when you hear a fire alarm. If you hear a fire alarm, get out of the building and go to your meeting place. Call the fire department from a neighbor's or portable phone.

When can you go back inside?

Do Not go back inside your home for any reason until the fire department says it is safe!

What do you do if you are home alone?

  1. Leave immediately.
  2. Do Not try to find the fire.
  3. Go to a neighbor's home and call the fire department.

Apartment Buildings

Some large apartment buildings have special plans for what you should do when you hear a fire alarm, find out what to do. If you hear a fire alarm, follow the plan. If firefighters come to help you escape, follow their instructions.

Public Buildings

If you hear a fire alarm in a restaurant, mall, library, or other public building, leave the building immediately, following any instructions you hear over a public address system or from individuals who work in the building.


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Cumberland County, NC.
All Rights Reserved.
County Courthouse
117 Dick Street
Fayetteville, NC 28301